Theresa May was today unable to confirm exactly why she gave a knighthood to an MP who blocked a bill which would have made upskirting a criminal offence.
Conservative backbencher Christopher Chope was widely criticised last week after intervening on a private members bill which would have ensured the act of taking pictures underneath someone’s clothing without their consent became a specific crime under the Sexual Offences Act.
The MP was greeted with cries of “shame” from Commons colleagues after he prevented the widely-supported Voyeurism (Offences) Bill, tabled by Lib Dem Wera Hobhouse, getting its second reading in Parliament.
Theresa May intervened to say she would ensure the legislation was put through by the government, but faced awkward questions from the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday as to why she had decided to put Chope forward for a knighthood six months ago.
The presenter pointed out that Chope, who was made a Knight Bachelor in February, had previously attempted to block legislation to ban wild animals in circuses, prevent revenge evictions and end hospital parking charges.
After a pause, the PM said: “Christopher Chope has been a long-standing MP.”
“What is important is how we respond...[it] is not an issue of individual concern,” she added.
May said she believed upskirting was “invasive, degrading and offensive”.
“What I am going to do in response to what happened is to ensure...we are going to take that legislation that was blocked and we are going to put it through in government time,” she told the programme.
Chope told his local paper, the Bournemouth Daily Echo, that he had been made “a scapegoat” because of his actions and said he believed upskirting was “vulgar, humiliating and unacceptable”.
Hobhouse, who was elected in 2017, said on Friday it appeared Chope had objected to her bill “on a general principle that he doesn’t like private member’s bills” but said he should apologise for his actions to people who had been affected.
Hobhouse brought the legislation forward as part of a lengthy campaign alongside upskirting victim Gina Martin. The 26-year-old faced rape threats and abuse after she began fighting for the practice to be outlawed.
“I am obviously extremely upset and disappointed that Sir Christopher Chope decided to object on this vitally important bill for the women of England and Wales,” Martin said.
“I remain positive, though. We knew this was a risk - but I now stand with powerful, passionate, women and men behind me, and I am confident that [justice minister] Lucy Frazer is committed to - and will - close this gap in the law.”
The bill will return to the Commons on July 6.