THE leader of Portsmouth City Council is standing by MP Mike Hancock, who last night stepped aside as a parliamentary representative of the Liberal Democrats.
As previously reported, Mr Hancock attended a disciplinary meeting after a civil law suit was brought against him over ‘very serious’ allegations of sexual assault – claims he strenuously denies.
Last night he resigned from the parliamentary party, rather than having the whip withdrawn, so now represents Portsmouth South as an independent MP, rather than a member of the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Hancock is also a cabinet member for the city council, and he represents the Fratton ward of Portsmouth.
He will be continuing these roles and has the full support of council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘His role in the council does not change in any way – he remains as a member of the cabinet.
‘Now he must clear his name, but until then he carries on.
‘When I have been talking to people, they have been incredibly supportive of Mike.
‘I absolutely support him as a councillor.
‘There are people across Portsmouth that have been helped by Mike for so many years and he looks after their interests really well.’
Last night a meeting took place in Westminster.
In an exchange of letters between Mr Hancock and Lib Dem chief chip Alistair Carmichael, Mr Hancock said: ‘Following our meeting I have decided to offer to temporarily withdraw from the parliamentary party in the Commons until the civil court case against me has been concluded.
‘I can assure you that I will continue to vigorously defend my position and that I completely refute the allegations made against me.
‘I’m doing this in the best interests of the party nationally and in Portsmouth and for my family.
‘I will continue to work hard for my constituents in Portsmouth as I have always done.’
Mr Carmichael noted that Mr Hancock had consistently denied the allegations, which were originally made in 2010.
Mr Hancock was arrested by police over the allegations but no action was taken as the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution.
Mr Carmichael wrote: ‘If, at the end of your case, your name is cleared then I would fully expect to have you back in the parliamentary party to play again your role in the Commons.’