South Swindon MP Sir Robert Buckland has said new Labour MP Natalie Elphicke approached him to try and change her husband’s trial for sexual assault.

Charlie Elphicke, who was Conservative MP for Dover from 2010 to November 2019, was convicted in July 2020 of three counts of sexual assault against two women.

He served two years in prison for the offences.

By the time of his trial his then-wife, now divorced, Natalie Elphicke had taken his Dover seat, winning it in the December 2019 general election.

In 2020 Mr Buckland was the Secretary of State for Justice in the Boris Johnson government, and he told the Sunday Times last week that Mrs Elphicke approached him to try and move the date of the trial, the first at Southwark Crown Court after the 2020 lockdown, to minimise publicity.

Mr Buckland told The Sunday Times: “She was told in no uncertain terms that it would have been completely inappropriate to speak to the judge about the trial at all.”

He made the allegations just days after Mrs Elphicke shocked many across the political spectrum by defecting to the Labour Party last week.

She crossed the floor of the House of Commons to sit behind Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer just before Prime Minister’s Questions and said she had done so because she no longer trusted Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government to solve the illegal immigration crisis.

She also said that the Conservative leadership had moved away from the centre ground of British politics.

But Mrs Elphick says that’s not how her conversation with Mr Buckland went.

Her spokesman told the Sunday Times: “This is nonsense. It’s certainly true that Mr Elphicke continued to be supported after his imprisonment by a large number of Conservative MPs who had known him for a long time, including some who visited him and independently lobbied on his behalf, which was nothing to do with Natalie.”

A Labour Party spokesman said: “Natalie Elphicke totally rejects that characterisation of the meeting.

“If Robert Buckland had any genuine concerns about the meeting, then he should have raised them at the time, rather than making claims to the newspapers now Natalie has chosen to join the Labour Party.”

In July 2021 Mr Elphicke was suspended for one day and apologised after being found, with four other MPs, to have tried to influence judges in her husband’s sentencing appeal.

Mrs Elphicke is understood to be standing down at the next election.