Chancellor Philip Hammond is at the centre of a sexism row after he reportedly suggested that driving a train was now so easy “even” a woman could do it.
His reported comment, at Tuesday’s meeting of the Cabinet, earned the Chancellor a sharp rebuke from Theresa May, according to The Sun.
Mr Hammond, a former transport secretary, was said to have made his remark during a discussion on transport policy.
According to the paper, he was trying to make a point about how easy the job of driving a train had become, saying “even they (women) can do it”.
As he then tried to explain himself, he was said to have been cut off by Mrs May who told him “Chancellor, I’m going to take your shovel away from you.”
Conservative sources declined to comment on the report, however The Sun said a source close to the Chancellor had strongly denied that he made any such remark.
Allies of Mr Hammond were said to have suggested the phrase was spoken by another minister, who was unfairly caricaturing his words.
Labour MP Jess Phillips said: “Philip Hammond has disgraced himself with this remark, as well as managing to insult half the country’s population.”
She tweeted: “People will say it’s nothing, just a joke. Women were entirely missing from his industrial strategy & his budgets make poor women poorer.
“The two things are connected. It’s not a joke when a women’s worth and value changes our economics.”
Train driver Pauline Cawood, 53, who has been driving locomotives for more than 20 years, said it was an “old-fashioned, sexist comment”, telling the Sun: “He ought to be ashamed of himself. Women are just as capable as men at driving trains.”