Tory MP Mark Francois uses racial slur in parliament

Watch: Tory MP Mark Francois uses racial slur during House of Commons debate

Senior Tory MP Mark Francois has come under fire after using an expression widely regarded as an ethnic slur against Japanese people in parliament.

Francois's remarks came during a debate on defence procurement on Monday, in which he expressed frustration about how long it was taking to build and launch ships.

“The Type 26 frigate is literally a world-beating design, which we have exported to both Canada and Australia, and we all want to see it in service as soon as possible,” said Francois.

“So it is doubly disappointing that, last week, the department issued a written ministerial statement to say her entry into service is now delayed a further year from October 2027 to October 2028 and the lifetime cost to the programme will be over a quarter of a billion pounds more of taxpayers’ money.

“Given the defence budget is likely to come under great pressure, why does it take BAE Systems 11 years to build a ship the J*ps can build in four?”

Neither the Speaker of the House nor defence secretary Ben Wallace condemned the use of the term.

Instead, the Speaker responded: “Just before the Secretary of State answers, may I say that we even have the Speaker of Canada here, which is very appropriate.”

Mark Francois in Downing Street, London.
Mark Francois used the offensive term during a debate on defence procurement in the House of Commons (PA Images)

On Tuesday, Labour MP Sarah Owen described the language as "a crass racial slur".

"Mr Speaker, you rightly and regularly remind us to use respectful language in this House," said Owen. "But unfortunately this outdated and crass racial slur has fallen well below the bar we should expect."

Francois' comments come the week after food minister Mark Spencer used the phrase "little man in China" when discussing former prime minister Liz Truss's phone being hacked.

"We all talk on personal phones, don’t we?" said Spencer.

"I ring my wife, maybe there’s some little man in China listening to the conversations between me and my wife."

Owen described the term as a "crass and archaic" trope.

In July last year, Jacob Rees-Mogg had to apologise for using the term "Yellow Peril", insisting he was ignorant of its racist connotations.

In 2011, the use of the word in an edition of the Spectator magazine in a column by Rod Liddle was criticised by the Japanese embassy who said the expression ‘white-coated J*p bloke’ was "offensive".

A minister at the embassy, Ken Okaniwa, added: "I find the gratuitous use of a word reviled by everyone in Japan utterly inappropriate."

The Conservative party has been approached for comment.