Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock has resigned from the parliamentary Liberal Democrat party following a disciplinary hearing.
Mr Hancock was today attending a disciplinary meeting after a civil law suit was brought against him over ‘very serious’ allegations of sexual assault – claims he strenuously denies.
But news emerged tonight that he had resigned from the parliamentary party, rather than having the whip withdrawn – which is effectively the same as being forced out.
In an exchange of letters between the MP and Lib Dem chief chip Alistair Carmichael, Mr Hancock said: ‘Following our meeting today 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Mr Carmichael noted that Mr Hancock had consistently denied the allegations, which were originally made in 2010.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.’
Mr Hancock will now represent Portsmouth as an independent MP, rather than as a member of the Lib Dems.
A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: ‘Mike Hancock has chosen to resign the party whip while he defends himself against very serious allegations in a High Court civil action. Mike Hancock strenuously denies the allegations made in the civil case and intends to clear his name in court.’
His role as a cabinet member of Portsmouth City Council is, The News understands, unaffected.