Tory minister Mark Garnier to be investigated by Cabinet Office over claim he asked aide to buy sex toys

Mr Hunt also said that Theresa May would also be writing to Commons Speaker John Bercow to ask for his advice on how the culture at Westminster could be changed

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Sunday 29 October 2017 11:03 GMT
Jeremy Hunt says there will be an investigation into whether sex pest scandal behaviour has broken ministerial code

The Cabinet Office has launched an investigation over whether International Trade minister Mark Garnier broke the ministerial code after admitting he asked his secretary to purchase sex toys for him.

Addressing the allegations Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, confirmed an investigation would take place, adding: “These stories, if they are true, are obviously totally unacceptable”.

Mr Hunt also said that Theresa May would also be writing to Commons Speaker John Bercow to ask for his advice on how the culture at Westminster could be changed.

“There are mums and dads who have daughters who are politics students hoping to get a job in Westminster and they must be able to be confident that if they get that job, their daughter will not be subject to some of these behaviours that we have been seeing,” he said.

It comes amid various allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct in the Palace of Westminster in the past week and interventions from both the Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn, who said there was a “warped and depraved” culture that is “thriving in the corridors of power”.

According to the Mail on Sunday Mr Garnier, who is a minister in Liam Fox’s International Trade department, admitted he called his secretary “sugar tits” and asked her to buy sex toys for him in Soho. The 53-year-old MP for Wyre Forest said he was “not going to be dishonest” after the Commons Secretary Caroline Edmondson told the newspaper Mr Garnier gave her money and waited outside the sex ship while she went in to buy two vibrators.

Ms Edmondson added that Mr Garnier had told her that one of the sex toys was for his wife while the other was for a female assistant in his West Midlands constituency.

“I’m not going to deny it, because I’m not going to be dishonest,” Mr Garnier said. “I’m going to have to take it on the chin.”

But the father-of-three denied the 2010 incident constituted sexual harassment and said the sex toys were bought after a Christmas lunch and the “vibrator shop was high jinks”. He said his “sugar tits” comment was part of “an amusing conversation” about TV show Gavin And Stacey.

Mr Garnier also admitted that he and Ms Edmondson later fell out and that she had been using the incident against him “ever since”.

Ms Edmondson disagreed with the junior minister's version of events and argued Mr Garnier had suggested shopping in the Soho sex shop in a Commons bar one evening and told her “let's do it” the following day.

While Downing Street has not responded to the allegations but on Friday her spokeswoman said all allegations of misconduct were “deeply concerning”. Separate reports in the Sunday Times also claimed Ms May is give weekly updates on the behaviour of her colleagues from the chief whip Gavin Williamson. The misdemeanours, according to the paper, included politicians having affairs, using prostitutes, and taking drugs.

In a separate case the Mail also said former cabinet minister Stephen Crabb had admitted sending “explicit” messages to a 19-year-old woman he interviewed for a job in 2013, when he was a Welsh minister.

The married MP, who resigned last year as Work and Pensions Secretary following reports of a similar incident, was quoted by the paper as saying he had been “foolish” but that there had been no sexual contact.

“We exchanged messages which talked about sex but none of it was meant seriously,” he was quoted as saying.

“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.”

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