Minister Mark Field suspended after grabbing female Greenpeace activist by the neck
Mark Field will be suspended as a Foreign Office minister during an investigation after he grabbed a climate change protester by the neck, the Prime Minister has confirmed.
The Tory MP had apologised for his behaviour at the Chancellor's Mansion House speech last night, where he was filmed grappling with a woman as she attempted to get on stage, pushing her against a pillar before frogmarching her out.
But he was criticised by both Labour and Conservative politicians, who said action should be taken after the video footage showed him leap from his seat as the activist walked behind where he was sitting.
On Friday morning Theresa May’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has seen the footage and she found it very concerning.
“He will be suspended as a minister while investigations take place.”
The woman was one of a number of demonstrators from environmental group Greenpeace who gate-crashed Philip Hammond’s speech to highlight the threat of climate change.
In a statement, Mr Field said he initially feared the woman may have been armed, but now said he “deeply regretted” his actions, and had referred himself to the Cabinet Office to judge whether he breached the ministerial code of conduct.
But Dawn Butler, Labour's shadow equalities minister, called the actions of MP for the Cities of London and Westminster “horrific”.
She tweeted last night: "This appears to be assault. He must be immediately suspended or sacked."
And the Liberal Democrats are also calling for him to be charged with assault following the incident.
The party’s home affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said: “The evidence is all there in the video so the police must press charges for this assault.
“It is striking that even now Mr Field is only referring himself to the Cabinet Office because of the publicity, not the assault itself.”
'VERY HARD TO DEFEND'
The City of London police confirmed they had “received a small number of third-party reports of an assault taking place at the event” which they said officers were looking into, but so far no arrests have been made.
Earlier this morning Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis admitted it was “very hard to defend” the footage as he appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
He said: “I have to say when you first look at it, I can understand why people would be concerned at what they have seen.
“It is very hard to defend the images that we have seen. However, and I just wanted to be very clear about this, Mark has referred himself to the Cabinet Office investigation process.
“I have already spoken on the way here this morning to our Chief Whip and there will be an investigation from our side.”
Mr Lewis said the issue of security at the event also needed looking at, but added: “I fully understand that it’s very hard for anybody to look at that and not be astonished at what they have seen but we haven’t yet got the full details of what happened.”
Mr Field’s statement, issued before his suspension, said: "In the confusion many guests understandably felt threatened and when one protester rushed past me towards the top table I instinctively reacted.
“There was no security present and I was for a split-second genuinely worried she might have been armed. As a result I grasped the intruder firmly in order to remove her from the room as swiftly as possible.
"I deeply regret this episode and unreservedly apologise to the lady concerned for grabbing her but in the current climate I felt the need to act decisively to close down the threat to the safety of those present."
Greenpeace UK said in response: “We were shocked at the footage of an elected MP and government minister assaulting one of our peaceful protesters at the Mansion House tonight.”
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who Mr Field is supporting in the Tory leadership race, told the BBC: “Well Mark has issued a full and unreserved apology.
"He recognises that what happened was an overreaction, but what we need now, in his interest but also in the interest of the lady involved, is a proper independent inquiry by the Cabinet Office. And that is what is going to happen.”