Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has apologised for repeatedly touching a radio host’s knee until she threatened to ‘punch him in the face’.
Mr Fallon has been revealed as the MP who made the gesture to journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer during a Conservative party conference in 2002.
The revelation is the latest incident to follow allegations of sexual harassment with a dossier naming six Cabinet ministers accused of various levels of sexual impropriety circulating in Westminster.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon (right) has been revealed as the MP who made the gesture to journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer (left) during a Tory party conference in 2002
Mr Fallon admitted he was the MP responsible for the incident to the Sun newspaper, despite Ms Hartley-Brewer previously refusing to name the man involved.
A friend of the Cabinet minister said: ‘Julia’s a good friend of Michael’s. He overstepped the mark when he put his hand on her knee. She made clear it was unwelcome and he rightly apologised 15 years ago.’
Ms Hartley-Brewer responded within minutes of the revelation, posting on Twitter: ‘This ”incident” happened in 2002.
A dossier (pictured redacted by MailOnline) naming 36 Tory MPs is circulating within Westminster
‘No one was remotely upset or distressed by it. My knees remain intact. I refer you to my earlier statement.’
Following a scandal where 36 sitting Conservative MPs have been branded ‘sex pests’, Ms Hartley-Brewer said a ‘witch hunt’ was being carried out in Westminster.
She also said ‘wild rumours’ about MPs were circulating in Parliament but that in her experience genuine harassment was rare.
Hartley-Brewer responded this evening by saying ‘no one was remotely upset or distressed by the incident in 2002
Yesterday the LBC host said she had been contacted by journalists about the incident in 2002, in the wake of wider claims of sexual misconduct, but said she regarded it as ‘mildly amusing’.
Comparing her experience of a ‘misjudged sexual overture’ to serious harassment or assault was ‘absurd and wrong’, she argued.
In a statement released on Twitter yesterday she wrote: ‘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.
Ms Hartley-Brewer (pictured) said the experience was a ‘misjudged sexual overture’ and ‘mildly amusing’
‘I believe it is absurd and wrong to treat workplace banter and flirting – and even misjudged sexual overtures – between consenting adults as being morally equivalent to serious sexual harassment or assault.
‘It demeans genuine victims of real offences. Anyone with any allegations against an MP, or anyone else, should speak up now and provide the evidence to ensure any necessary action is taken.’
She added: ‘I have not been a victim and I do not wish to take part in what I believe has now become a Westminster witch hunt.’
Recalling the incident, she said the MP – now a Cabinet minister –’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, which is why I have declined to name him.’
The commentator said she did not recall the same minister making a remark about her breasts, as has been claimed.
In a column for the Sunday Express in 2009 she described how the MP had propositioned her.
She wrote: ‘He was, he told me, a firm believer in the long-standing Westminster rule of … ‘party conferences don’t count’. I was, I told him, a firm believer in not going to bed with other women’s husbands.’
Meanwhile the full dossier listing the alleged sexual misdeeds and affairs of 36 MPs including six Cabinet Ministers was circulating within Westminster.
The explosive document suggests one of Theresa May’s cabinet colleagues ‘likes to have intercourse with men wearing women’s perfume’ while a second has ‘odd sexual penchants’.
Another Tory MP has apparently been videoed being urinated on by three men, while a fourth politician apparently ‘fornicated with male researchers’.