The Conservative MP who sparked widespread outrage after single-handedly blocking a new law to criminalise upskirting has insisted he actually supports a ban.
Sir Christopher Chope said: “The suggestion that I am some sort of pervert is a complete travesty of the truth.”
The 71-year-old member effectively killed the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill, which would have made taking photos up women’s skirts a criminal offence.
He faced cries of “shame” in parliament after calling “object” to the proposed legislation – preventing its progress. Commentators across the political spectrum expressed disgust at his actions. Fellow Tory and defence minister Tobias Ellwood called him “an embarrassment”.
But on Sunday Sir Christopher told the Daily Echo he did back measures to make the practice illegal, calling it “vulgar, humiliating and unacceptable”.
Rather, he claimed he blocked the bill on a point of principle – because he does not agree with legislation being brought before parliament on a Friday when there is insufficient time for it to fully debated.
As long as nobody objects, certain bills brought on the last day of the week can be waved through without full discussion. They would still face Commons debate and scrutiny later in the process.
Sir Christopher, MP for Christchurch in Dorset, said: “I feel a bit sore about being scapegoated over this ... The government has been hijacking time that is rightfully that of backbenchers. This is about who controls the House of Commons on Fridays and that’s where I am coming from. I actually support the bills that were before the house. Four of the 26 bills that fell at the same time were my own.
“But this is something I have fought for in most of my time as an MP and it goes to the very heart of the power balance between the government and parliament. The government is abusing parliamentary time for its own ends and, in a democracy, this is not acceptable.
“The government cannot just bring in what it wants on the nod. We don’t quite live in the Putin era yet.”
Sir Christopher admitted he had been taken aback by the reaction to his actions, calling it a “firestorm”.
He said: “I spoke to Gina Martin, the lady who had been promoting the bill as a victim herself, and she said she perfectly understood my reasons. We arranged to meet to discuss the matter further.”
Ms Martin has previously indicated Sir Christopher did not understand what upskirting was when he objected. He admitted he had never read about the issue in detail.
But he denied he was out of touch, saying: “I am not a dinosaur. I am very much alive and kicking. There are too few colleagues who are prepared to stand up for the rights of parliament against the executive and that’s when the freedoms we cherish will be eroded.
“My recommendation to the government is that to ensure the fastest, fairest and surest passage to the statute book for a bill to outlaw upskirting, which I would wholeheartedly support, it introduces its own legislation without delay.”
Theresa May said she was “disappointed” with Sir Christopher’s objection and vowed upskirting would be made an offence “soon”.
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