December 21, 2017 / 5:06 PM / a year ago

UK minister Garnier keeps job after misconduct inquiry finds no rules broken

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May wants to draw a line under allegations of misconduct against one of her junior ministers, Mark Garnier, a statement from her office said on Thursday after an investigation found he had not breached ministerial rules.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May attends a meeting with Polish and British soldiers and veterans at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

May ordered the investigation in October after the Mail on Sunday newspaper reported Garnier, now a junior international trade minister, asked secretary Caroline Edmondson to buy two sex toys.

The statement come a day after May forced her most senior minister, Damian Green, to resign for lying about whether he knew pornography had been found on computers in his parliamentary office.

The investigation into Garnier’s conduct said he had not breached the rules since becoming a minister in 2016.

Addressing events between Garnier and his staff member, it said the incident happened before Garnier became a minister, and that whilst there was no dispute about the facts, there was “a significant difference of interpretation between the parties.”

“It was not his intention to cause distress, and Mr Garnier has apologized unreservedly to the individual. On that basis the Prime Minister considers that a line should be drawn under the issue,” the statement from May’s office said.

The Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal has triggered a debate about a culture of abuse by some powerful men at the heart of Britain’s Westminster parliament.

That has played a role in the departure of two of May’s senior ministers after former Defence Secretary Michael Fallon resigned in November saying his past conduct had fallen below the required standard.

The departures have added to May’s political difficulties at a time when she is trying to manage a party and electorate still split over Brexit, negotiate an exit deal with the European Union and convince voters she can drive through domestic reforms.

Nevertheless, having secured progress in Brexit negotiations and steered key EU withdrawal legislation through difficult tests in parliament, she is not facing immediate pressure to quit from her own party.

Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison

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