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Wednesday, November 01, 2017, 12:49
UK defense chief named as sex scandal escalates in Westminster
By Xinhua
Wednesday, November 01, 2017, 12:49 By Xinhua

Britain's Defence Secretary Michael Fallon leaves 10 Downing Street after the weekly meeting of the cabinet in central London on Oct 31, 2017. (TOLGA AKMEN / AFP)

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

He apologized when the incident happened 15 years ago and both Julia and he now considered the matter closed

Spokesman for Michael Fallon

British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for urgent action after a catalogue of complaints of inappropriate behavior by MPs and ministers towards females.

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.

READ MORE: UK to investigate minister who asked aide to buy 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 told media that 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 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 Metro 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 towards harassment and bullying on the Palace of Westminster estate.

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

In its on-line platform 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 says 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. 

ALSO READ: Hundreds rally in France to protest sexual harassment

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