Transport commissioner Sir Peter Hendy says he had no idea a golf society meal he attended for the past three years excluded women and says he will “on no account accept an invitation again”.
Sir Peter was speaking after equality campaigners the Fawcett Society said they would write to Mayor Boris Johnson demanding he sanction the commissioner for attending the Transport Golfing Society annual dinner.
As reported earlier, the golf society’s website describes the event as including “a glamorous string quartet playing exciting music in even more exciting tight dresses” and “a troupe of Can Can dancers”.
It also confirms membership is only open “to gentlemen associated with the transport industry” and that the annual December gathering is “for gentlemen only.”
A number of London Assembly members criticised Sir Peter’s attendance which was paid for by bus makers Alexander Dennis.
Labour’s transport spokesperson, Val Shawcross AM, described the dinners as “revolting sexism in a backwards looking industry” while Green party AM Baroness Jenny Jones said she was “shocked” that the commissioner “would attend something that has such sleazy sexist overtones.”
Transport for London initially played down the row while City Hall declined to comment.
However on Friday evening Sir Peter issued a lengthy and strongly-worded statement distancing himself from the golf society and stressing he had no idea about its men-only policy.
His full statement reads: “I am not, and never have been, a member of this golfing society. I have no relationship with it and I don’t play golf either.
“I have been invited, as many industry people are, to the annual dinner by a bus manufacturer, Alexander Dennis. It’s the only invitation I have accepted from them annually, and I have gone to discuss what they make. The highlight of the evening for me has been singing carols.
“There have been a couple of tedious speeches too. In my memory there has never been inappropriate entertainment of any sort and had there been I would not have stayed or accepted an invitation again.
“It never occurred to me there was a policy of excluding women and that hasn’t been referred to in the invitations I have received. Now it’s clear there appears to be such a policy I will on no account accept an invitation again.
“I abhor sexism in any form and to see it apparently practised in this way is particularly inappropriate in an industry in which women are under represented and in which we are promoting careers, and equality, for women.
“I have made a personal donation to the Fawcett Society today, and am writing to Alexander Dennis to make my views very clear and to invite them to dissociate from sexism in an industry that should be encouraging women to join it.
“My acceptance of the invitation from Alexander Dennis has, of course, been declared on every occasion by me and TfL in the normal way. For the avoidance of doubt, I can think of no other event I have ever accepted an invitation for, where such an exclusion policy could conceivably have been applied.”