The Dorchester is where the Presidents Club Charity Dinner was held. Photo by By || UggBoy♥UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL || [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Today, the government confirmed that David Meller is stepping down as one of the directors of the board of the Department for Education. However, minister Nadhim Zahawi will stay on.
Anne Milton, the skills minister, said that this afternoon, Meller informed the House of Commons that as a part of the joint chairmen of the Presidents Club Charity Dinner, he would step down both as a director and as apprenticeships delivery board chair.
However, Milton said that Zahawi, the recently-appointed children and families minister, will not be leaving government. She informed the Commons that he had only attended the event shortly and had “felt uncomfortable” prior to leaving.
Asked why he felt uncomfortable, Zahawi had not suggested an alarm over the said event, Milton said that he did file a report “this morning.”
Milton also serves as the minister for women. She said that the alleged behaviour at the men-only dinner was “completely unacceptable.” She added that she had informed a WhatsApp group that “words fail me” after reading the revelations.
An investigation that was carried out by the Financial Times into an annual charity dinner that was held by the Presidents Club, discovered that hostesses for the men-only event were required to wear skimpy dresses, were encouraged to drink alcohol and then was subjected to behaviour that includes being groped and asked if they were prostitutes.
The article also alleges that non-disclosure agreements were distributed to the women for signing. However, they were not given enough time to read the said documents.
Jess Phillips, the Labour MP who brought the urgent question, stated: “Women were bought as bait for men, for rich men, less than a mile from where we stand. That is unacceptable behaviour.”
Carol Monaghan, an SNP MP, was tearful when said that the story had detailed how the toilets were monitored and the women went back to their guests, adding that “This is not sexism, this is slavery.”
This afternoon, Zahawi tweeted: “I do unequivocally condemn this behaviour. The report is truly shocking. I will never attend a men-only function ever.”
Downing Street was also one of those that defended Zahawi, even though it admitted that the Prime Minister was “uncomfortable” regarding the reports. “I say reports because clearly this is an event to which she would not be invited.”
One spokesperson said that the minister “clearly did attend the event briefly and had himself said that he felt uncomfortable at it, leaving at the point that the hostesses were introduced… I think it is probably safe to say that Mr Zahawi will not be attending a similar event in the future.”
“He himself probably regrets the decision to go,” added the spokesperson.
The Prime Minister believed that it was “the right decision” that Meller had been requested to step down.
Meller is also a joint chairman of the Meller Group, a high-end supplier. In June 2013, he joined the Department for Education as a non-executive board member.
Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, stated: “It is right that David Meller has now resigned but there are still serious questions for the education secretary to answer over this scandal. The minister for children attended this event himself and we have yet to hear a full and clear account of his actions.
“The Department for Education is responsible for protecting children from exploitation and tackling sexual harassment in our schools, yet in the last fortnight alone we have seen two ministerial appointments forced to resign after falling far short of the standards we should expect. It is about time they started leading by example.”