Journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer dismisses 'incident' when Defence Secretary touched her knee as 'mildly amusing'

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has apologised for putting his hand on a female journalist’s knee 15 years ago.

The incident involved Talk Radio host Julia Hartley-Brewer, who said she does not regard it as “anything but mildly amusing”.

The story and Fallon’s involvement was revealed by the Sun last night and is the paper’s front page lead this morning.

The Sun front page today

A spokesman for the Tory MP said: “He had apologised when the incident happened 15 years ago and both Julia and he now considered the matter closed.”

Tweeting after the Sun’s revelations, Hartley-Brewer said: “This ‘incident’ happened in 2002. No one was remotely upset or distressed by it. My knees remain intact.”

A friend of Fallon said: “Julia’s a good friend of Michael’s. He overstepped the mark when he put his hand on her knee. She made it clear it was unwelcome and he rightly apologised 15 years ago.”

Before Fallon was named, Hartley-Brewer said in a statement shared on Twitter: “I have spoken previously about a Cabinet Minister who repeatedly put his hand on my knee during a party conference dinner.

“I calmly and politely explained to him that if he did it again I would ‘punch him in the face’. He withdrew his hand and that was the end of the matter. I have had no issues since with the man in question and do not regard the incident as anything but mildly amusing.”

She added: “Wild rumours and claims are circulating about many male MPs at Westminster in a media feeding frenzy, I have worked in and around Westminster for 20 years and, as far as I am aware, incidents of genuine harassment involve only a small number of MPs from all parties…

“I have not been a victim and I don’t wish to take part in what I believe has now become a Westminster witch hunt.”

The matter came to light as Parliamentary authorities draw up plans to allow victims of sexual harassment to report incidents “without fear”, with abuse allegations continuing to dominate Westminster.

Commons Speaker John Bercow met with senior parliamentary figures on the House of Commons Commission to plot a way forward as fresh claims of sexually intimidating behaviour emerged.

In the latest of a slew of allegations about MPs’ conduct, the Daily Telegraph reported that an unnamed Minister’s “inappropriate” actions forced two female staff members to move to other jobs.

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