Pressure mounts on Nadhim Zahawi as Theresa May 'appalled' at Presidents Club dinner
A newly-appointed minister's job is hanging in the balance after Theresa May said she was "appalled" by an all-male dinner he attended at which female hostesses were reportedly groped and sexually harassed.
Nadhim Zahawi, who was made children's minister in the reshuffle earlier this month, claims he left the Presidents Club event early last Thirsday and has "unequivocally condemned" the behaviour at it.
An investigation by the Financial Times revealed that women working at the charity dinner in the Dorchester Hotel were left feeling exploited after being told to wear "sexy" outfits and being propositioned by some of those in attendance.
David Meller, who helped organise the event, was sacked as a member of the Department for Education's board this morning.
Downing Street initially said Mrs May was "uncomfortable" at the reports she had read about the dinner.
But a Number 10 source later said: "The Prime Minister is appalled by what has been reported. This shows there is a long way to go to ensure all women are treated properly as equals."
The comments heaped further pressure on Mr Zahawi, who had come in for criticism during an urgent debate on the scandal in the Commons.
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Raymer said: "I welcome also the fact the David Meller is standing down. And Mr Speaker, he should not have any other roles in education," she said.
"Will the Secretary of State also investigate the attendance of the minister for children – can he confirm reports that he attended previous events and was invited by David Meller this year?
"His department is responsible for safeguarding millions of children, caring for thousands of victims of child sexual exploitation and abuse, for tackling sexual harassment and violence in our schools for colleges, for universities and for educating another generation of bot girls and boys. Isn’t it time Mr Speaker, that they started leading by example?"
Education minister Anne Milton stressed that her colleague had left the event shortly after he arrived.
"I will lead by example and I know, I have spoken to the Secretary of State this morning and I know he is equally appalled by the reports of this event.
"I have spoken to my Honourable Friend, the fellow minister in the department [Mr Zahawi] – he didn’t stay at the event long and I know he found the event extremely uncomfortable, he left and he was truly shocked by the reports that have emerged."
However, it has also emerged that Mr Zahawi has previously attended another Presidents Club event. It is understood he was hauled in front of Tory chief whip Julian Smith for a dressing down.
Meanwhile, the Presidents Club announced it was disbanding in the wake of the furore over last week's dinner.