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French minister Royal denies ban on cleavage

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French minister Royal denies ban on cleavage
Ségolène Royal has reportedly banned women in her ministry from wearing low cut tops at work. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP
09:09 CEST+02:00
Ségolène Royal, France's new minister for the environment has been forced to deny reports on Thursday that she had introduced some strict new rules for her staff, including a ban on women wearing low cut tops at work. However a French TV show claims to have found proof of the ban.

Royal, the ex-wife of President François Hollande was drafted into the cabinet in the recent reshuffle has wasted no time laying down the law.

According to a report by Le Point website, Royal, who they dub "the iron lady", has banned women working in her ministry from wearing tops or dresses that show too much cleavage as part of a new code of conduct aimed at improving etiquette.

Woman have been ordered to come to work wearing a respectable outfit, Le Point says quoting a source at the ministry.

When contacted by Le Point, Royal simply replied that the ban on low cut tops (interdiction des décolletés) is “part of the rules of service meant for internal use” and should not give rise to “external comments”.

However with the story dominating French news sites on Thursday morning Royal took to Twitter to rubbish the report.

"Of course I deny the ridiculous rumor concerning the banning of low cut tops in the ministry!

"The only rules laid down were in regards to a greater rigor in the use of public funds, that the French expect from us."

French TV show Le Grand Journal then visited the ministry with a hidden camera and spoke to a member of staff who confirmed the ban on the showing of cleavage.

Despite the denials the issue continued to cause a stir. When asked about the the over at the Environment Ministry, Marisol Touraine, France’s Minister for Health said that all her staff, “both men and women have a sense of the mission and always wear respectable outfits.”

But Touraine said that at certain times of the year she would accept a little leeway on what female staff wear.

“In the summer slightly lower cut tops would not be a problem for me,” she told Europe1 radio.

The news of the Royal's supposed ban naturally provoked a fair bit of reaction and mocking in the Twittersphere as well.

"Ségolène Royal arrives at her ministry this morning looking very sober," joked @AntoineLvq.

Le Figaro newspaper even managed to dig out an old picture of Royal wearing, what can only be described as a low cut top.

The reported restrictions on women's clothing is just one of a raft of new rules by which Royal has asked her staff to abide by, claimed Le Point.

The site also said  that when Royal walks around the ministry an usher accompanies her ordering staff to stand as she passes by.

Staff are also banned from smoking in the yard and in the garden in the presence of the minister.

And when Royal is having lunch in the lounge, her advisers have been asked to take a different corridor to avoid making too much noise as she eats.

She has also introduced a "co-working" scheme which means each office has to be occupied by at least two people.

The minister has so far not denied any of these rumours.

Royal, who lost the 2012 presidential race to Nicolas Sarkozy, was brought back out of the political wilderness by new Prime Minister Manuel Valls when he formed his new government earlier this month.

As a Socialist Party stalwart, Royal was unlucky not have been named in Hollande's first government after he was elected in 2012, but reports claim that his then partner Valérie Trierweiler vetoed the appointment of the mother of Hollande's four children.

With Hollande having since dumped Trierweiler after news of his secret fling with French actress Julie Gayet was exposed by Closer magazine earlier this year, the path appears to have cleared for her to be brought back in from the cold.

She is still close to the president and would give him a much needed ally in the government. Asked recently if she had considered quitting public life, Royal replied: "Never. After 30 years in politics, that would be unthinkable."

Her staff at the ministry might be wishing otherwise.

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