LONDON (AP) _ A judge called a junior government minister ''idiotic'' for grabbing a 6- year-old girl who was picking flowers in his yard and taking her into his house for a scolding.

The girl's father pleaded guilty Wednesday to punching Minister of State for Employment Timothy Eggar, but Judge Keith McHale told him: ''I sympathize with you entirely in feeling irritation that your daughter had been interfered with in the way she was.''

Prosecutor Jeremy Carter-Manning told the Croydon Crown Court in south London that Eggar grabbed the girl by the scruff of the neck and led her and her friend into his house for a lecture.

Her father later went to Eggar's home, butted the minister with his head and then punched him in the face, breaking two teeth, Carter-Manning said.

The judge said he believed ''a grown man seeing a child stealing flowers would know better than to take a small girl into his house. It was a stupid, idiotic and provocative thing to do and Mr. Eggar should have known better.''

The father, who was not named in court because McHale ruled the girl should not be identified, was given a suspended 21-day prison sentence and ordered to pay $490 to repair Eggar's teeth and replace clothes ruined in the fight.

Eggar, 38, works for Employment Secretary Michael Howard, a member of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's government.