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Sir Michael Fallon denies ‘lewd remarks’ allegation

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Reuters/BBC

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Reports claim Sir Michael Fallon made “lewd” remarks to Andrea Leadsom when they served on a Commons committee together.

Ex-Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon “categorically denies” allegations that he made inappropriate sexual comments to Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom.

Reports in the Sun and the Daily Mail say Mrs Leadsom complained to Number 10 about her cabinet colleague, accusing him of making “lewd” remarks.

Mrs Leadsom has declined to comment but Downing Street insisted she did not ask for her former colleague to be sacked.

Sir Michael said his general conduct “fell short” of expected standards.

The veteran Conservative quit the cabinet on Wednesday, the first minister to resign since allegations of misconduct by MPs first surfaced ten days ago.

  • Fallon resigns saying conduct ‘fell short’
  • Bercow: ‘Zero tolerance’ for harassment

The new claims date back to between 2010 and 2012 when Sir Michael and Mrs Leadsom were members of the Treasury Select Committee.

According to the Sun and the Daily Mail, Mrs Leadsom remarked to Sir Michael – who was not a minister at the time but was deputy chair of the Conservatives – that she had cold hands and he allegedly replied: “I know where you can put them to warm them up”.

The newspapers claim Sir Michael was forced to quit as defence secretary after Mrs Leadsom complained to Prime Minister Theresa May about the alleged incident.

A source close to Sir Michael said he “categorically denies” the newspapers’ claims.

And No 10 issued a statement, saying: “The Leader of the House did not, and has not, asked the prime minister to consider the position of Sir Michael Fallon when he was defence secretary.”

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PA

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The prime minister sat beside Andrea Leadsom as she gave her speech to Parliament

Sir Michael confirmed on Tuesday that he was once rebuked by a journalist, Julia Hartley-Brewer, for putting his hand on her knee during a dinner in 2002, and he apologised at the time.

A day later, he resigned as defence secretary, telling the BBC: “The culture has changed over the years, what might have been acceptable 15, 10 years ago is clearly not acceptable now.

“Parliament now has to look at itself and the prime minister has made very clear that conduct needs to be improved and we need to protect the staff of Westminster against any particular allegations of harassment.”

He was replaced on Thursday by Chief Whip Gavin Williamson.

Ms Hartley-Brewer said that if he had gone because of her knee, it would be “the most absurd reason for anyone to have lost their job in the history of the universe”.

The BBC’s deputy political editor John Pienaar said the manner of Sir Michael’s departure and the role played by others in it was causing already “bad blood” in the party to bubble up.

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Media captionSir Michael Fallon: “Not right for me to go on as defence secretary”.

He said the Conservatives and other parties were struggling to keep pace with the daily stream of allegations against MPs and were, at the moment, reacting rather than being in command of events.

Former minister George Freeman said Theresa May had been right to accept Sir Michael’s resignation and both the Conservatives and Parliament need to look at their culture to better “embody the values of our time”.

He tweeted: “We don’t need a witchhunt but we do need to show we are committed to the highest standards of conduct in the workplace.”

Labour is also facing new claims of sexual harassment and has suspended an MP whilst it carries out an investigation.

Kelvin Hopkins, who has represented Luton North for 20 years, has been accused of sexually harassing a party activist.

A spokesman said Labour “takes all such complaints extremely seriously and has robust procedures in place”.

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