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Theresa May vows ‘upskirting’ will be made a crime ‘soon’ amid Tory anger at Sir Christopher Chope's block on ban

Ministers are ready to allow government time for the anti-voyeurism legislation – to prevent a solitary MP from blocking it again

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 16 June 2018 09:56 BST
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Commons bill to make 'upskirting' criminal offence halted by Peter Chope objection

Theresa May has vowed that a law to make “upskirting” a criminal offence will be passed “soon”, as anger grows over a senior Tory MP blocking the move.

Ministers are ready to allow government time for the legislation in parliament, to prevent a repeat of Sir Christopher Chope’s action on Friday.

Victoria Atkins, the minister for women, revealed that she was among MPs who shouted “shame” when Sir Christopher blocked the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill, to make it illegal to take a picture under someone’s clothing without their consent.

And the prime minister tweeted: “Upskirting is an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed.

“I am disappointed the Bill didn’t make progress in the Commons today, and I want to see these measures pass through Parliament – with government support – soon.”

No 10 is considering an amendment to an existing government bill, or even putting through a short, standalone bill, to minimise the embarrassment from the controversy.

Otherwise, the existing backbench bill is vulnerable to a single MP again shouting “object” when it returns to the Commons on 6 July – as Sir Christopher did on Friday.

That action triggered a torrent of criticism from fellow Tories and calls for reform to the archaic practice of allowing bills to be obstructed in that way.

Tobias Ellwood, a defence minister, was one of a number of Conservatives to criticise Sir Christopher, saying: “Many will be rightly shocked and offended that such dinosaur opinions are aired in parliament in 2018.

“If we are serious about winning the next election, we must have the courage to immediately and publicly criticise such crass and archaic views that damage both our party and parliament.”

Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, described the blocking of the bill as “shaming”.

And Conor Burns, another Tory MP, described Sir Christopher’s behaviour as embarrassing, saying: “I share a constituency boundary with him, but clearly not a century.”

Bob Neill, the Conservative chairman of the Commons justice committee, said: “We need to reform the procedures on private members’ bills.”

Sir Christopher has previously blocked giving carers free hospital parking, opposed laws to ban wild animals in circuses and raised an eleventh-hour objection to a debate on Hillsborough taking place.

On Friday, a planned new law to avoid the excessive use of force in mental health units was also blocked after Philip Davies, filibustered for two and a half hours.

Again, the government backs the legislation – dubbed “Seni’s law” after a London man who died in custody after being restrained by police officers.

Sir Christopher has declined to comment on his actions, but told Gina Martin, a campaigner and upskirting victim, he had objected “on principle” because the bill had not been debated.

The Tory had MP also said he “wasn’t really sure” what upskirting was, Ms Martin said.

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