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Pressure mounting on children's minister over attendance at men-only dinner

Minister said to have left Presidents Club Charity Dinner after finding it 'extremely uncomfortable', MPs are told

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Minister said to have left Presidents Club Charity Dinner after finding it 'extremely uncomfortable', MPs are told

Pressure is mounting on children's and families' minister Nadhim Zahawi today following his attendance at a men-only dinner the centre of sexual harassment allegations.

Undercover journalists from the Financial Times reported that waitresses at the Presidents Club Charity Dinner were subject to groping, lewd comments and were propositioned at the event last week.

There were have been calls in Parliament for Mr Zahawi to consider resigning over his attendance at the event.

The annual dinner, attended by 360 men from business, politics and finance, has been running for more than 30 years with the aim of raising money for charities.

The organisers included David Meller who today resigned from his position on the board of the Department for Education

At a debate in parliament today, Jess Phillips Labour MP for Birmingham, Yardley, said she wanted to ask Anne Milton: “If she thinks one of the junior ministers in the Department attending this event is appropriate? If that minister, the minister for children and families, raised concerns about David Meller and his conduct after he realised what was going on at the event?”

Education minister Anne Milton, said that Mr Zahawi had submitted a report to her this morning.

“He didn't stay at the event long, but I know he found the event extremely uncomfortable and he left," she said. 

"And he was truly shocked by the reports that have emerged."

Mr Zahawi said on Twitter: "I do unequivocally condemn this behaviour. The report is truly shocking. I will never attend a men only function ever."

Ms Milton also revealed that Mr Meller was stepping down from his role as a non-executive director at the Department for Education.

Independent unionist MP, Lady Hermon,  said: “While she [Ms Milton] has been very loyal to her ministerial colleague who didn’t stay for any long period of time. It is also reported that the same gentleman attended the Presidents Club at a previous event. I have no idea if that is true or not. If that is the case shouldn’t the minister consider his position?”

Labour member Sarah Jones said: “If it transpires that the minister did not report his concerns and was there on previous occasions then it absolutely, surely obvious that he should resign. Our women are too important, our young girls are too important, to get this kind of message form our leaders and think it is acceptable.”

Asked whether the Prime Minister was concerned about the attendance of children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi at the event, a senior Number 10 source said: "My understanding is that Mr Zahawi clearly did attend the event briefly.

"He has himself said he was uncomfortable at it, leaving at the point at which the hostesses were introduced by the host."

The source added: "I think he himself probably regrets the decision to go."

Angela Rayner, Labour shadow education secretary, said: “I welcome the fact that David Meller is standing down and he should not have any other roles in education.

"Will the secretary of state also investigate the attendance of the minister for children and confirm reports that he attended previous events and was invited personally by David Meller this year?

"His department is responsible for safeguarding millions of children and caring for thousands of victims of child sexual exploitation and abuse, for tackling sexual harassment and violence in schools, universities and colleges and educating another generation of girls and boys. Isn’t it time they started leading by example?”

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