Equalities chair calls for tougher laws after women are ‘groped’ at men-only charity bash
The chair of the women and equalities committee has called for the law to be strengthened after reports emerged of female staff being “groped and harassed” at a men-only charity dinner.
The Financial Times revealed last night that women working at a high-end event in central London – attended by senior figures from business and politics including Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi – were left feeling exploited after being told to wear “sexy” outfits and being propositioned by guests.
The investigation by the newspaper discovered that the gala had been endorsed by senior politicians, with Mr Zahawi and other political figures on the guest list and afternoon tea with Boris Johnson included as an auction prize.
In a statement to ITV last night, Mr Zahawi, who was recently appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, moved to distance himself from the event, saying: "I did attend and left early. David Walliams was hosting. I didn't stay long enough to really comment on the occasion."
Female MPs reacted furiously to the revelations, with Maria Miller suggesting the law should be tightened in response.
The women and equalities chair told the Guardian: “British business needs to take a long hard look at itself. How seriously is business taking equality at work if they are still using men only events for entertainment?
“If business leaders are simply paying lip service to equality issues then perhaps it’s time the government gives the Equality Act some real teeth?”
Labour MPs Jess Phillips fumed: “This is horrendous example of rich men acting with disgusting entitlement.
“It cannot just be me calling it out, let’s hear from the establishment, the Conservatives, business, that this is disgusting and not in their name.”
Conservative MP Anna Soubry said: “I should imagine the charities will be appalled that their good name has been sullied in this way.
“It was never acceptable but it’s 2018 for goodness sake and I thought – hoped – we’d moved on to being a more civilised decent society. Well we need to.”
While deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson described the details of the event as “simply stomach-churning”.