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Sex toys scandal hits Britain’s Westminster, Theresa May orders probe

According to a media report, minister Mark Garnier gave his assistant money to buy sex toys for his wife and another woman in 2010.

world Updated: Oct 29, 2017 21:54 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Prime Minister Theresa May,Mark Garnier,sex toys
Department for international trade minister Mark Garnier, in a video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliamentary Recording Unit on October 12, 2017.(AFP)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered an investigation into one of her ministers after allegations surfaced about him asking a female assistant to buy sex toys, and of his making sexist remarks about her.

The allegations against department for international trade minister Mark Garnier, reported by the Daily Mail on Sunday, prompted an inquiry by the cabinet office and came amid growing concerns about the sexual affairs of MPs.

According to the report, Garnier gave his assistant Caroline Edmondson money to buy sex toys for his wife and another woman in 2010, the year he was first elected from the Wyre Forest constituency.

Edmondson said: “He suggested to me in a (House of) Commons bar one evening that we went shopping for sex toys in Soho. The next day, he said, ‘Come on, let’s do it.’ He took me to Soho and gave me the money to buy two vibrators. He stood outside the shop while I did.”

Garnier also reportedly made sexist remarks about her.

The cabinet office inquiry was announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt during a BBC interview: “The stories, if they are true, are obviously totally unacceptable and the cabinet office will be conducting an investigation into whether there’s been a breach of the ministerial code in this particular case.”

Hunt also said May would be writing to the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, “to ask for his advice as to how we change that culture (of sexism)”.

A Conservative Party spokesman added: “As the prime minister has made clear, any reports of sexual harassment are deeply concerning and any unwanted sexual behaviour is completely unacceptable in any walk of life, including politics.

“The prime minister is writing to the speaker of the House of Commons calling for a new contractually binding grievance procedure to be set up for all MPs and their staff.

“Today, as a result of allegations about a serving minister, the prime minister has also asked the cabinet office to conduct an immediate investigation to see whether those reported actions break the ministerial code.”

A second Conservative MP was at the centre of controversy on Sunday after he admitted sending sexual messages to a 19-year-old who hoped to work with him.

“We exchanged messages which talked about sex but none of it was meant seriously. We met for coffee a few times and had a glass of wine once at the Commons, but nothing more. I accept any kind of sexual chatter like this is totally wrong and I am sorry for my actions,” Stephen Crabb told The Sunday Telegraph.

First Published: Oct 29, 2017 19:28 IST