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‘She needs to apply her mind’: Excruciating moment Tory MP makes ‘unacceptable’ comment to female MP

·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
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A Tory MP has been criticised over comments he made to a female colleague during a debate on parliamentary standards in the House of Commons.

Sir Christopher Chope, MP for Christchurch, made the remarks in response to a challenge from his Conservative colleague over his decision to block a government U-turn on Monday night.

The U-turn concerned the government dropping plans to reform the way parliamentary standards are monitored by replacing an independent body with a committee containing a Conservative MP majority.

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The government was forced into the move after opposition parties boycotted the committee, making it untenable.

“I recognise [Chope] is keen to make sure this parliament has its time to have its say but we have had almost four and a half hours of debate on this issue already, " said Alicia Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton.

Alicia Kearns Christoper chope
Tory MP Alicia Kearns criticised her Conservative colleague Sir Christopher Chope for blocking the government U-turn late on Monday night. (parliamentlive.tv)

"Do our constituents not deserve for us to focus on actually delivering those promises we made to them, things that matter to them, rather than spending time here trying to deny things."

Chope, who has received fierce criticism from within his own party over blocking the U-turn late on Monday night, sought to defend himself by questioning if Kearns understood the issue.

“Shall I express shock or outrage at what she is saying?" he said.

"Because clearly in the time to which she has been referring she hasn’t applied her mind to the principle issue, and that is that the government encouraged everybody, including her probably, to vote for a motion on 3 November.

alicia kearns
Kearns responded sarcastically to Chope after he told her she wasn't applying her mind. (parliamentlive.tv)

“That motion was passed by resolution of this House and for that motion to be rescinded or changed is a matter for this House rather than for the executive and the government.”

Responding the Chope's question of whether she had "applied her mind", Kearns responded sarcastically: "Yes, I am a woman."

Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips, criticised Chope's comments, saying his attitude was "nothing new".

"I have to say I found the tone in which you spoke to one of your colleagues, in my view, slightly unacceptable, as a woman in these proceedings," Phillips said.

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"As in these proceedings, I've had call to find some of the tone of the honourable gentlemen problematic in the past. So, nothing new there."

In 2018, Chope blocked legislation that sought to ban upskirting, and in 2019, he halted a law that would have made it easier to protect women and girls from female genital mutilation (FGM).

Phillips went on to defend Chope's decision to frustrate the government's attempts to U-turn, however.

"It was the government's position 13 days ago," said Phillips.

Adding: "It's all well and good barracking him, and saying we shouldn't be talking about it, but this was the government's position just weeks ago."

jess phillips
Labour MP Jess Phillips criticised the way Chope speaks to his female colleagues. (parliamentlive.tv)

Tory MPs were visibly angry with Chope during proceedings, with many jeering at him as he delivered his speech in which he used the concept of "natural justice" as a defence, adding he had "no regrets about that whatsoever" over his decision.

The attempts to change the parliamentary standards process came after the government sought to block the 30-day suspension of Conservative MP, Owen Paterson.

Paterson was found to have breached lobbying rules by the independent parliamentary standards authority (IPSA).

However, he refused to apologise, said he would "do it again", and subsequently resigned.

Watch: Owen Paterson: Jacob Rees-Mogg admits 'mistake' backing ex-Tory minister as government completes U-turn amid ongoing sleaze row

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