PM ‘disappointed‘ after Tory blocks upskirting law

The Voyeurism (Offences) Bill was stopped in its tracks when Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope objected to it being given a second reading in parliament.

The bill, which was proposed by Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse and supported by ministers, was expected to get the nod through the Commons on Friday.

After it was blocked, Theresa May said: “Upskirting is an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed.

“I am disappointed the bill didn‘t make progress in the Commons today, and I want to see these measures pass through Parliament – with government support – soon.”

Image: Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope blocked the bill's progress

Blocking its progress only requires one MP to shout “object” when the title of a private member‘s bill is read out.

Sir Christopher is on the libertarian right of Conservative party and is understood to regard many private members‘ bills as politically correct expressions of the nanny state.

Minister for women Victoria Atkins and Tory MP Will Quince were among those who cried “shame” after his intervention.

The bill will be debated next on 6 July, but will only take one dissenting voice to put another stop to its progress.

Ms Hobhouse told Sky News it was a “petty thing to do”.

Image: Women's minister Victoria Atkins said 'shame' when the bill was blocked

“I think it‘s very frustrating and annoying that one MP can block a consensus that had been built over several months,” she said.

“It‘s really annoying we couldn‘t make progress.”

She added that “every month matters”, pointing out festival season was approaching.

Dawn Butler, Labour‘s shadow minister for women and equalities, said: “It‘s absolutely disgusting that a male Tory MP has blocked upskirting from becoming a criminal offence.

“If Theresa May is serious about tackling this vile practice, and injustices like sexism, she will need to show leadership and show there‘s no place in the Tory Party for Christopher Chope.”

Justice Secretary David Gauke tweeted: “The Government supported today‘s Bill on ‘up-skirting‘. Disappointed that no progress today – the law needs to be reformed. But it will be.”

Upskirting victim Gina Martin, 26, launched the campaign after two men took a picture up her skirt while at a festival in 2017.

0:30 Video: MP amazed by upskirting objection

In a statement, Ms Martin admitted she knew Sir Christopher‘s scepticism was a “risk” but that “I‘m positive and hopeful that he will become a supporter”.

Reacting to Sir Christoper scuppering the bill, justice minister Lucy Frazer said the government “has every expectation” upskirting will eventually become a criminal offence.

A government spokesman, echoed this, saying: “Whilst we are disappointed this Bill did not pass second reading today, we look forward to supporting these measures through the House at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Victims of upskirting

Currently, victims in England and Wales are forced to seek prosecution through other legal avenues, such as outraging public decency or harassment.

A specific law against upskirting already exists in Scotland.