Top Tories blast own MP as he blocks cross-party bid to make 'upskirting' photos illegal
A Conservative MP has sparked fury from his own colleagues after blocking a government-backed bid to make it illegal to take 'upskirt' photos of people.
Lib Dem backbencher Wera Hobhouse had secured support from ministers for her private member's bill aiming to beef up existing laws and make it a specific, jailable offence to take the covert snaps of unsuspecting victims.
But Conservative Sir Chrstopher Chope shouted "object" to the bill as it came to the House of Commons today for its second reading - a move that prevents it from proceeding to its next stage.
Speaking after the bill's blocking, Ms Hobhouse branded Mr Chope's intervention "shameful" and "annoying" - while government ministers also laid into the backbencher in an extraordinary bout of open warfare on the Tory benches.
The Lib Dem MP fumed: "This change would have protected women and girls across England and Wales and given the police the tools to bring the perpetrators to justice. This is too important to allow people like Christopher Chope to obstruct progress on this vital issue."
Ms Hobhouse said she would be making "urgent arrangements" to meet ministers and "plan the route forward" after the move by Sir Christopher, who on Friday found himself facing heavy criticsm from the Government.
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said: "The Goverment is determined to make it illegal to photograph people under their clothes without consent. Individual MPs can delay, but not prevent this from becoming law. We will make it happen."
The frontbencher also retweeted criticism from fellow Conservative backbencher George Freeman, who branded Sir Christopher's actions an "affront to democracy".
Home Office minister Caroline Nokes also took a swipe at the Tory backbencher, tweeting:
Sir Christopher was also blasted by Labour, with Shadow Equalities Minister Dawn Butler branding his actions "absolutely disgusting".
"If Theresa May is serious about tackling this vile practice, and injustices like sexism, she will need to show leadership and show there's no place in the Tory Party for Christopher Chope," she said.
Campaigner Gina Morris, a victim of upskirting who has been working with Ms Hobhouse to make the bill law, said she was "extremely upset" that Sir Christopher had blocked the bill - although she revealed that he had agreed to meet her and her lawyer to discuss the row.
"I'm positive and hopeful that he will become a supporter," she added.
One Lib Dem source was less diplomatic, however, telling PoliticsHome: "Well, he's a d*ck."
Sir Chris's office has been approached for comment.
Ms Hobhouse's bill would have created a new offence in England and Wales which specifically clamped down on the use of covert photography "to obtain sexual gratification or cause humiliation, distress or alarm".
It would have seen those convicted of the offence facing jail terms of up to two years or hefty fines.
Victims of upskirting can currently bring prosecutions under the existing Outraging Public Decency offence.
But research carried out by the Press Association earlier this year revealed police forces had pursued just 78 offences relating to the intrusive photography since 2015 - with just 11 of those leading to charges.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "Whilst we are disappointed this bill did not pass second reading today, we look forward to supporting these measures through the House at the earliest possible opportunity."