Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionClimate change protesters interrupt Chancellor Philip Hammond’s speech Greenpeace has accused Foreign Office minister Mark Field of assault, after he physically ejected an activist from a City of London black-tie event. Mr Field claimed he reacted “instinctively” and has referred himself to the Cabinet Office for an
Greenpeace has accused Foreign Office minister Mark Field of assault, after he physically ejected an activist from a City of London black-tie event.
Mr Field claimed he reacted “instinctively” and has referred himself to the Cabinet Office for an investigation.
He also apologised to the woman for “grabbing her” – but said he was worried she may have been armed.
The Conservative MP has been widely condemned over what happened.
Thursday night’s incident – which was filmed – happened after climate change protesters disrupted the beginning of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s annual Mansion House speech to the City about the state of the UK economy.
Dozens of activists – dressed in suits, red dresses and sashes – “gatecrashed” the dinner, according to Greenpeace, and refused to leave.
Video footage shows Mr Field getting out of his seat and stopping one female protester by pushing her against a column and then marching her out of the room.
In a statement, Greenpeace said it was “shocked” at the response to a peaceful protest.
One of its climate campaigners, Areeba Hamid, said: “The protester in question was hoping to discuss climate change and the economic reforms we need with the financiers and bankers at the dinner.
“Mark Field is the MP for the City and represents many of those financiers and bankers. We hope they will show a greater willingness to listen and understand the necessity for urgent action than their representative.”
Labour’s shadow women and equalities minister, Dawn Butler, was among those who criticised Mr Field, tweeting: “This is horrific… He must immediately be suspended or sacked.”
Fellow Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi added: “No one who reacts like this to a peaceful protest should be sitting in our Parliament.”
And Jess Phillips MP tweeted: “Every MP has to deal with protest and conflict, it is done with words. To watch this is so so awful.”
Meanwhile Liberal Democrat MP Chuka Umunna described Mr Field’s actions as “totally unacceptable” while former Tory MP Sarah Wollaston said it was “absolutely shameful, a male MP marching a woman out of a room by her neck.”
‘Guests felt threatened’
In a statement given to ITV News, Mr Field – who is the Foreign Office minister for Asia and the Pacific – said: “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.”
He added: “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.”
One of Mr Field’s Conservative colleagues, Sir Peter Bottomley MP, defended him, saying he had done nothing wrong.
“The woman clearly was trying to create a fuss. Most viewers would say it’s good that she didn’t succeed,” he said.
When asked if Mr Field had been heavy-handed with the protester by grabbing her on the back of the neck, Sir Peter said: “No, he reversed her direction and she looked as though she went willingly.
“I think there’s no reason to criticise Mark Field… of course it wasn’t an assault, it was a reversal of direction.”
Watching the clip for the first time on BBC Newsnight, former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said: “I’ve no appreciation of the context of anything like that. Mark will answer for himself. But it looks to be a very difficult situation for everyone concerned”.
Meanwhile, Conservative MP George Freeman tweeted: “This looks appallingly rough handling of a woman climate protester in a dress.
“But before everyone rushes to instant armchair judgement can I suggest that all of us who weren’t there and don’t know what was said or done just wait a few hours to hear what those who *were* there say.”
The protesters were removed from the event after several minutes and Mr Hammond was able to continue soon afterwards.
City of London Police said they received a call from security at Mansion House at just after 21:00 BST
“Officers arrived to help with their ejection. Once in the presence of the police, the protesters were co-operative and left the premises. No arrests were made.”
Resuming his speech, Mr Hammond told the guests: “The irony is that this is government that has just led the world by committing to a zero carbon economy by 2050.”