Upskirting legislation to be adopted as Government Bill

Legislation to ban upskirting is to be adopted as a Government Bill, Downing Street said.

The move comes after a Tory MP who blocked the progress of a backbench Bill to ban the practice of surreptitiously taking photos of underwear had his parliamentary office adorned with knickers.

Four pairs of knickers, bound together with a pink ribbon, were draped across the doorway to Sir Christopher Chope's office in the Norman Shaw North building on the parliamentary estate.

Sir Christopher stopped the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill from completing its second reading in the Commons on Friday by calling out "Object!"

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The move caused outrage and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom told the regular weekly meeting of Cabinet that the upskirting legislation will now be adopted as a Government Bill to improve its chances of becoming law.

Mrs Leadsom said it was intended to secure a second reading in the Commons for the Bill in Government time as soon as possible and certainly before the summer recess, which begins on July 28.

Theresa May told Cabinet that upskirting was "an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed", her spokesman told reporters.

The spokesman said there was no mention at the 90-minute meeting of Sir Christopher's intervention or of calls for reform of the procedures for private members' bills.

It is not believed that the Prime Minister has spoken with Sir Christopher since Friday.

Green MP Caroline Lucas, who has an office near Sir Christopher, took a photo of the knickers and said: "Good to see some redecorating happening in my corridor over the weekend."

It followed a similar protest outside Sir Christopher's constituency office at the weekend.

A former deputy speaker of the House of Commons has called for a change to the "arcane" procedures which allowed Sir Christopher to block legislation with a single word.

Nigel Evans has written to the Commons Procedure Committee to demand a review of Parliament's rules.

"When I was deputy speaker I saw this arcane procedure where people would shout 'Object!' as the title of the Bill was called out time and time again," he told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour.

"And I was so angry by the fact that not just the upskirting Bill but a number of other Bills on Friday, which are decent Bills that deserved some form of airtime, were blocked in this way that I've written to the chairman of the Procedure Committee and I've asked him as a matter of urgency to review and reform that arcane procedure."

Christchurch MP Sir Christopher, who has faced a storm of criticism, insisted that he supported the Bill's purpose of outlawing the practice of taking photographs up someone's clothing without consent, but was acting on a long-held principle that has seen him routinely oppose backbench private members' bills.

Sir Christopher complained on Sunday that he was being "scapegoated" over the issue.

The 71-year-old told the Bournemouth Daily Echo: "The suggestion that I am some kind of pervert is a complete travesty of the truth.

"It's defamatory of my character and it's very depressing some of my colleagues have been perpetuating that in the past 48 hours."

He urged the Government to find the "fastest, fairest and surest passage" for a Bill banning the practice.

But fellow Dorset Tory MP Simon Hoare suggested Sir Christopher should apologise.

"Sorry really is the hardest word. Put the shovel down, apologise and learn," he said.

Without a specific law, victims in England and Wales must seek prosecution of upskirting through other legal avenues, such as outraging public decency or harassment.

Legislation in Scotland provides for a maximum two-year jail sentence.