Mark Garnier cleared of breaching ministerial code over sex toys request
Theresa May said “a line should be drawn under the issue”.
International trade minister Mark Garnier will continue in post after a Cabinet Office investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour found that he did not break the ministerial code.
Theresa May said “a line should be drawn under the issue” after the probe found that Mr Garnier had not breached expected standards of behaviour since becoming a minister.
The Prime Minister ordered the inquiry following allegations Mr Garnier used derogatory language to his secretary and asked her to buy sex toys, before he became a minister.
The probe was sparked after Mr Garnier’s former secretary Caroline Edmondson told the Mail on Sunday he had given her money in 2010 to buy two vibrators at a Soho sex shop – one for his wife and one for a woman in his constituency office.
Ms Edmondson, who has since left to work for another MP, was quoted as saying that on another occasion in a bar, in front of witnesses, he told her: “You are going nowhere, sugar tits.”
The Mail reported that Mr Garnier had admitted the claims, saying: “I’m not going to deny it, because I’m not going to be dishonest. I’m going to have to take it on the chin.”
According to the paper, he said the “sugar tits” comment was part of an “amusing conversation” about the TV comedy Gavin And Stacey, while the sex toys were bought after a Christmas lunch.
“We bought some soap sets, that sort of stuff, scented candles. The vibrator shop was high jinks,” he is quoted as saying.
“I hung around outside and she went into this shop. That was it.”
The newspaper said Mr Garnier had conceded that, in the current climate, his actions could look like “dinosaur behaviour”, but insisted: “It absolutely does not constitute harassment.”
A Number 10 spokesman said the Cabinet Office found no evidence to suggest Mr Garnier acted improperly after being appointed a minister in 2016.
In addition, there was a “significant difference of interpretation” between Mr Garnier and Ms Edmondson, the Cabinet Office concluded, while noting her distress.
The Downing Street spokesman said: “The Cabinet Office concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that Mr Garnier’s conduct as a minister since 2016 had breached the expected standards of behaviour.
“The Prime Minister’s view is therefore that Mr Garnier did not break the ministerial code while holding Government office.
“The Cabinet Office also took evidence in relation to an incident that happened before Mr Garnier was a minister, between Mr Garnier and a member of his parliamentary and constituency staff.
“The Cabinet Office concluded that there was no dispute about the facts of the incident, but there was a significant difference of interpretation between the parties, and that the member of staff in Mr Garnier’s office was distressed by what had occurred.
“It was not his intention to cause distress, and Mr Garnier has apologised unreservedly to the individual. On that basis the Prime Minister considers that a line should be drawn under the issue.”