Mark Francois has been told to apologise for his remarks. (Photo: House of Commons - PA Images via Getty Images)
Tory MP Mark Francois has been strongly criticised for using a “crass racial slur” in the House of Commons.
Francois, a former minister and the MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, is under fire for his use of term “J***” in a defence debate on Monday.
Francois has subsequently said he meant “absolutely no disrespect or offence to anyone” by using the phrase.
Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Francois said: “Given the defence budget is likely to come under great pressure, why does it take BAE Systems 11 years to build a ship the J*** can build in four?”
Neither Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle nor defence secretary Ben Wallace subsequently condemned the use of the term.
His remarks were strongly criticised by Labour MP Sarah Owen, the first MP of south-east Asian ancestry, who raised her objections in a point of order.
She accused Francois of using an “outdated and crass racial slur” and that his actions had fallen “well below the bar we should expect”.
Addressing Hoyle, Owen said: “Mr Speaker, you rightly and regularly remind us to use respectful language in this House, but unfortunately, this outdated and crass racial slur has fallen well below the bar we should expect.”
Following the criticism, Francois said in a statement: “I meant absolutely no disrespect or offence to anyone by using the phrase ‘Japs’, during defence questions in the House of Commons yesterday.
“I merely used it as an abbreviation for Japanese, as I had, by then, been asking an admittedly rather wordy question, about naval shipbuilding. Moreover, in the course of that same question, as the record clearly shows, I actually complimented the Japanese shipbuilding industry, for building warships much faster than here in Britain.”
In her point or order Owen also criticised environment minister and former chief whip Mark Spencer over his recent suggestion that “some little man in China” could be eavesdropping on his own private conversations in a debate about security.
She referred to a weekend article in the Times that asked why “there are only two MPs who identify as eastern south-east Asians in this place, despite making up 1.2 million of the country”.
“Perhaps it is comments like this by the member for Rayleigh and Wickford or ‘the little man in China’ trope trotted out by a government minister last week, or when the former leader of the House [Jacob Rees-Mogg] said the word ‘Yellow Peril’ from that despatch box,” Owen said.
Rees-Mogg subsequently apologised for his remarks, saying he did not know that what he had said was racist and that his use of the term was “out of ignorance”.
In response, Hoyle told Owen that “the casual use of racial terms causes upset and should not be used”.
“What I would say is Erskine May states that good temper and moderation are the characteristics of the parliamentary language and ask all members to remind themselves of that principle in choosing the words they use carefully.
“People reflect also the language that we use – if we set the best of language, therefore others might follow.”
A Labour source told HuffPost UK that Francois should apologise for his remarks.
“If there was ever any doubt, the nasty party is firmly back,” they said.
“While Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party are distracted by scandal after scandal, their MPs are bringing our parliament into disrepute by using derogatory, racist language in the chamber.
“Mark Francois may need reminding that it is 2022, not 1940. He should apologise for this language.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.