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Ex-Tory MP breached ministerial code by grabbing climate change protester’s neck

Mark Field, who stood down after being suspended as a Foreign Office minister, fell foul of the code, according to a Cabinet Office probe.

Tory MP Mark Field breached the ministerial code (PA)
Tory MP Mark Field breached the ministerial code (PA)

By Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent

A former Tory MP breached the ministerial code by using force against a climate change protester at a black-tie City dinner, a Government investigation has found.

Mark Field, who stood down from Parliament after being suspended as a Foreign Office minister, grabbed Greenpeace activist Janet Barker by the neck and forced her from the event.

The Cabinet Office investigation found that he was “justified in intervening to try to stop” Ms Barker reaching the top table as protesters disrupted the beginning of then-chancellor Philip Hammond’s speech.

But Friday’s report found that, although he had to make a “split-second decision”, he “had the option of simply blocking her way” during the incident in London’s Mansion House in June.

Or he could have waited for “others to shepherd her out rather than pushing her by the neck out of the room and down the stairs”, the Prime Minister’s independent adviser on ministerial standards Sir Alex Allan wrote.

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Greenpeace activist Janet Barker was manhandled by the former Foreign Office minister (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

After reviewing footage of the incident and the comments of interviewees, he found “that the actions Mr Field took, and the force he used, were not consistent with the high standards of behaviour expected of ministers and with treating Ms Barker with consideration and respect”.

“As such it was a breach of the ministerial code,” Sir Alex added.

Mr Field, who joined the Commons representing the Cities of London and Westminster in 2001, will receive no punishment over the ruling because he is no longer a minister.

He was suspended by then-PM Theresa May when she reviewed footage of the incident and described it as “very concerning”.

The City of London Police investigated allegations that Mr Field assaulted Ms Barker but the case has since been closed with officers “taking no further action”.

Mr Field had claimed he was “genuinely worried she might have been armed” but that he “deeply” regretted the incident.

Ms Barker said it left her “shaken up”, adding: “There was over 300 people in that room at the time and there was only one that reacted in that way.

“We had that message, we had the climate emergency, and I think it was quite obvious that we were there for that reason – for a peaceful protest and we weren’t armed.

“I was armed with peer reviewed science – the message that we were giving out. That’s all I was armed with.”

PA

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