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UK minister named as 'sex pest' scandal hits Westminster

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-02 07:10

UK minister named as 'sex pest' scandal hits Westminster

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon arrives at the National Cyber Security Center in London, Britain, Feb 14, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

LONDON - British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon was the latest British politician on Wednesday to be named in a sexual harassment scandal that has erupted in the Houses of Parliament.

Prime Minister Theresa May has called for urgent action after a catalog of complaints of inappropriate behavior by MPs and ministers toward women.

International Trade Minister Mark Garnier is already being investigated after it was revealed he asked his secretary to go to a shop in London's "sex" quarter of Soho to buy two sex toys.

Fallon's name has now been drawn into the debate after national newspapers told how he had touched the knee of a well-known female broadcaster and columnist.

The "victim" of that incident, Julia Hartley-Brewer, responded on social media, saying: "This 'incident' happened in 2002. No one was remotely upset or distressed by it. My knees remain intact."

Hartley-Brewer said she did not consider herself a victim after the incident which happened over dinner at a Conservative Party conference.

The journalist said of the incident: "After the minister kept putting his hand on my knee, I calmly and politely explained to him that, if he did it again, I would punch him in the face. He withdrew his hand and that was the end of the matter."

But the tabloid Sun made Fallon the subject of its front page splash story on Tuesday, with the headline - "Fallon: I felt radio host's knee". The papers sub-heading read: "Shock confession as sex pest dossier implicates six cabinet members".

A spokesman for Fallon said he had apologized when it happened in 2002, adding: "He apologized when the incident happened 15 years ago and both Julia and he now considered the matter closed."

But the harassment debate, dubbed "Pestminster" by the newspaper, has continued to dominate the world of politics.

The London-based Times reports that government ministers face being fired in "sex pest crackdown".

In a debate in the House of Commons on Monday, Speaker John Bercow said there must be zero-tolerance toward harassment and bullying on the Palace of Westminster estate.

'Dirty dossier'

The Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, has called for action over the issue within days rather than weeks.

In its online platform on Tuesday, the Daily Telegraph claims a Conservative Minister and an MP have been accused of paying women to be silent in a so-called "dirty dossier" being shared by party staff.

The newspaper said the new disclosures come amid a growing sexual harassment scandal at Westminster, with some 40 Conservative MPs being named in the "dossier". In the list obtained by The Telegraph, seven Cabinet ministers, eight former ministers and 15 other members of the Government are named.

The Telegraph said of the MPs named in the list, 25 are alleged to have behaved inappropriately. Thirteen MPs are named over consensual relationships or personal sexual preferences, while two others are alleged to have made women pregnant.


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