Foreign Office Minister Mark Field has been suspended from his post after he grabbed a climate change protester by the neck, who gatecrashed a back-tie dinner.
A spokesperson for Theresa May said that she had seen video footage of the event and “found it very concerning”.
The events unfolded on Thursday evening at a black-tie dinner where bankers and politicians had gathered in London to hear speeches by Chancellor Philip Hammond and Bank of England governor, Mark Carney. As Mr Hammond was speaking to the audience, around 40 Greenpeace activists entered the room to demand action on climate change.
In a statement, Mr Field, who was recorded grabbing one protester by the neck, said;
“A major security breach occurred at the dinner I attended last night when a large number of protesters suddenly and noisily stormed into Mansion House.
“In the confusion many guests understandably felt threatened and when one protester rushed past me towards the top table I instinctively reacted.
“There was no security present and I was for a split-second genuinely worried she might have been armed.
“As a result I grasped the intruder firmly in order to remove her from the room as swiftly as possible. I deeply regret this episode and unreservedly apologise to the lady concerned for grabbing her but in the current climate I felt the need to act decisively to close down the threat to the safety of those present.
“In view of the publicity around this incident I am referring myself to the Cabinet Office to examine whether there has been a breach of the ministerial code, and will of course co-operate fully with their investigation.
Rebecca Newsom of Greenpeace said;
“I don’t see any justification for the kind of violent behaviour we saw from his last night.
“It’s and extremely shocking and concerning state of affairs. I think the Conservative Party and he personally need to look hard into this and actually review whether that kind of behaviour is appropriate for anyone let alone somebody in public office.”
The environmental activist involved in the incident, Janet Barker told Sky News, “I think it was quite obvious we were there… for a peaceful protest.”
“There was over 300 people in that room at the time and there was only one who reacted in that way.
“I don’t intend to press charges. I haven’t had an apology from him. My priority is the planet and the future of it and that’s what I am focusing on.
“I was shaken up after it happened. I wasn’t expecting that kind of reaction. I was expecting a conversation, a dialogue with people.”
The incident sparked a mixed reaction from MPs on Twitter. Labour MP Dawn Butler, the shadow secretary of state for women and equalities described the footage of the incident as “horrific”, calling for Mr Field to be ‘immediately suspended or sacked’. Meanwhile, Conservative MP Maria Caulfield tweeted “In this age where politicians have been murdered, jokes are made about throwing acid at us and we have all been threatened, no one knows what her motives were. “If she had been carrying a weapon @MarkFieldUK would be hailed a hero now.”
It is understood an inquiry into the incident will take place.
Cover Photo: A climate change protest in March 2019