Cabinet minister has revealed that she was once pinned up against the wall by a male MP, as Boris Johnson comes under growing pressure to remove the whip from a Tory MP accused of watching porn in Parliament.
International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan was describing examples of misogyny she had encountered during her time in the Commons.
Speaking to LBC she said: “Well we might describe it as wandering hands if you like, we might describe it as, a number of years ago being pinned up against a wall by a male MP who is now no longer in the House, I’m pleased to say, declaring that I must want him because he was a powerful man.
“These sorts of things, the power abuses that a very small minority of male colleagues show is completely unacceptable.”
She said she hadn’t kept a list of the number of times she had experienced inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues but said it had happened on “probably half a dozen” occasions.
“A couple were repeat offenders,” she said. “They have got the message now.”
Addressing wider concerns over Parliament’s culture and claims of sexual misconduct, Ms Trevelyan said: “Fundamentally if you are a bloke keep your hands in your pockets and behave as you would if you had your daughter in the room.”
The Government’s chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris issued a statement on Wednesday sugegsting the porn-watching allegations, made by two unnamed female Tories, should be referred to parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS).
It is not clear whether any referral has yet been made and third parties are unable to ask the ICGS to investigate.
On Thursday senior Tories expressed frustration at the Chief Whip’s decision and called for the unidentified male MP to resign from Parliament now.
“It’s just completely unacceptable,” Ms Trevelyan told Sky News. “A. Why has he got the time and B. Why does he think that’s okay?”
Asked why the MP hadn’t already had the whip removed the minister said the women who had seen the incident had been encouraaged to report it to the ICGS, adding she very much hoped they would.
But on the Government’s failure to take action now, she said she was confident the Chief Whip “will take a decision that’s appropriate”, after following parliamentary processes.
While Ms Trevelyan insisted it was a minority of men in parliament who treated women in an inapproproate way, she added: “All of us as women in Parliament have been subjected to inappropriate language, to wandering hands, that’s what my granny used to call it, it doesn’t change.
“The vast majoruity of men I work with are delightful, committed parliamentarians but there are a few for whom too much drink or a sort of view that somehow being elected makes them God’s gift to women, that they can suddenly please themselves.
“That is never okay, that kind of behaviour, disrespect to women…it’s never okay anywhere, it’s not okay in Westminster either.”
The Sunday Times reported last weekend that a total of 56 MPs, including three cabinet ministers, were facing allegations of sexual misconduct. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas asked Mr Johnson in Parliament on Wednesday whether such behaviour was grounds for dismissal under the ministerial code.
Mr Johnson replied that sexual harassment was “intolerable” and “of course… grounds for dismissal”.