Theresa May replaces defence minister over sex scandal

  • 03/11/2017
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 23:  Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Downing Street on March 23, 2017 in London, England. The British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke last night after a terrorist attack took place in Westminster, saying Parliament would meet as normal today and "We will come together as normal".  PC Keith Palmer and three others lost their lives in the attack and the perpetrator was shot dead by police.  (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
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British Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed Gavin Williamson as her new defence minister after his predecessor resigned in a sexual harassment scandal that prompted calls for an end to the "locker room" culture in parliament.

Just hours after Michael Fallon quit, saying his behaviour in the past fell "below the high standards we require of the armed forces", Ms May on Thursday appointed Mr Williamson, a rising star in her ruling Conservative Party.

Weakened after losing her party's majority in a June election, Ms May had to move swiftly to plug the hole in her cabinet, at odds on everything from Britain's departure from the European Union to the government's austerity agenda.

Mr Williamson, elected in 2010, has moved swiftly up the ranks of the Conservatives and was appointed the party's chief whip by May when she became prime minister in 2016.

In his resignation letter to Ms May, Mr Fallon, who had apologised earlier this week for repeatedly touching a radio presenter's knee in 2002, said there had been many allegations about MPs, including "some about my previous conduct".

"Many of these have been false but I accept that in the past I have fallen below the high standards that we require of the armed forces that I have the honour to represent," he said, offering no detail on the nature of any other allegations.

Sexual abuse allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein have prompted hundreds of thousands of women and men to share stories about improper behaviour.

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Conservatives in Scotland, said it was time to break with a culture in politics when powerful people "use positions of power to demand things from others".

Allegations of sexual abuse have ranged from a charge of rape by an activist in the opposition Labour Party by a senior party member, to unconfirmed details of serial "sex pests" on a list reportedly drafted by aides and researchers in parliament.

The prime minister said on Wednesday that action would be taken when there were allegations and evidence of sexual misconduct.