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Leadsom: 'Sensible' to favour women in childcare jobs due to 'paedophile risk'

Andrea Leadsom said it was not sexist to favour women for childcare jobs. Credit: PA

Andrea Leadsom has come under fire for suggesting that it is sensible not to employ a man for childcare roles in case they are a paedophile.

The new cabinet minister made the comments in the same interview for The Times that sparked a backlash after she appeared to suggest that being a mother would make her a better choice for Conservative party leader.

Leadsom, who was appointed Environment Secretary by Prime Minister Theresa May after she quit the Tory run-off, told The Times that the "odds are stacked against you" if men are hired as nannies.

As an employer we're not, let's face it, most of us don't employ men as nannies, most of us don't. Now you can call that sexist, I call that cautious and very sensible when you look at the stats.

Your odds are stacked against you if you employ a man. We know paedophiles are attracted to working with children. I'm sorry but they're the facts.

– Andrea Leadsom

The minister also raised concern about rules stopping parents asking nannies if they planned to have children of their own.

"So we want to employ women and of course, generally speaking, we want to employ young women, motherly figures, and what do they want to do? They want to have their own children. So it is a bit of a... 'Are you going to have a baby?" she said.

"'I'm not allowed to ask you but would you mind?' Do you know what I mean? It's stupid. I genuinely feel in those areas you do actually need a balance. And it's not fair," Leadsom added.

Leadsom said it was not sexist to favour women nannies. Credit: PA

Politicians have criticised her comments, labelling them "ignorant" and "lacking judgment".

Former shadow education secretary Lucy Powell told The Times:

These comments show an enormous lack of judgment on Andrea's part.

She should know as well as I know that not only are men just as capable of doing childcare jobs but we should want to encourage more men into those jobs as they can bring other benefits.

– Lucy Powell

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron branded Mrs Leadsom's comments "stupid" and "ignorant" and called for her to be sacked.

Andrea Leadsom has let yet another of her masks slip. I have to admire The Times - journalists are there to hold politicians to account and this interview was clearly a masterclass in doing just that.

These remarks are stupid, ignorant and not ones any minister should be making. Over the last day Theresa May has shown she is willing to relieve ministers of their duties and she must do so again now.

It is inconceivable that somebody who holds such offensive, ignorant views should be sat around the Cabinet table.

– Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron

Labour shadow minister Jon Ashworth described her comments as "extraordinarily offensive".

Andrea Leadsom should apologise immediately and the Prime Minister should also distance herself from these comments.

– Jon Ashworth

A spokeswoman for Leadsom said that the minister had a male nanny for five years.

She added: "[She] was not saying that men are unsuitable as nannies."

A survey by the Pre-School Learning Alliance found that 97.9% of 1,200 parents surveyed were happy for men to work with children aged between three and five and 89% were fine with men caring for under-threes.