owning Street on Monday admitted that Boris Johnson had been aware of media reports and allegations of misconduct involving former minister Chris Pincher – but still pressed ahead with his appointment as Deputy Chief Whip in February.
Ministers and No10 said previously that the Prime Minister had not been aware of any specific allegations regarding Mr Pincher, who had the Tory party whip removed on Friday, a day after he resigned his post amid claims he groped two men during a party at a private members’ club.
But with Mr Johnson coming under growing pressure to explain what he knew about past allegations of impropriety, his official spokesman said today that he had been aware of media reports and other claims about Mr Pincher’s behaviour.
He added: “There were allegations that were resolved or didn’t progress to a formal complaint.
“It was not appropriate to stop an appointment on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations.” The spokesman said the Prime Minister had taken advice from political colleagues and civil servants before he pressed ahead with Mr Pincher’s appointment.
The Tamworth MP resigned as deputy chief whip last week after he was accused of drunkenly groping two men at the Carlton Club last week.
He admitted that he had “embarrassed myself and other people” on Wednesday, but denied sexual harassment.
The Tory whip was removed on Friday evening — meaning he now sits as an independent MP — and he was told not to attend the Parliamentary estate until an investigation is completed.
Since he resigned last week, at least 13 claims of previous inappropriate behaviour have emerged.
In a statement Mr Pincher said he was “truly sorry” for his conduct and he is seeking “professional medical support”.
“The stresses of the last few days, coming on top of those over the last several months, have made me accept that I will benefit from professional medical support,” he said.
In 2017 Mr Pincher referred himself to the police and “voluntarily stood down” from the Whips’ Office following allegations he had made an unwanted sexual advance towards former Olympic rower and Tory activist Alex Story.
A party investigation cleared him of breaching its code of conduct.
Education minister Will Quince branded the allegations against Mr Pincher “indefensible” as the disgraced MP faced growing pressure to quit as an MP.
Mr Quince said unacceptable behaviour should be “reported to the police and any relevant authorities” following more than a dozen claims emerging about Mr Pincher’s conduct.
“I’m certainly not going to defend the former deputy chief whip,” Mr Quince said.
“The allegations are incredibly serious and I’m appalled by them.” He added that the allegations were “indefensible”.
Mr Quince said he had been given “categorical assurance” by No10 that the Prime Minister was not aware of any specific claims when he appointed Mr Pincher deputy chief whip in February.
It follows claims made by former chief adviser Dominic Cummings that Mr Johnson had referred to the MP as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” before handing him the role.
The Prime Minister was expected to face MPs on Monday afternoon for the first time since the scandal broke.
He was making a statement to the Commons about his recent G7 and Nato trips but Downing Street anticipated he would also be quizzed about his previous knowledge of Mr Pincher’s conduct.
Tory MP Sir Roger Gale today said this was the latest in a long line of scandals that called into question the “Prime Minister’s judgment”. “We cannot go on like this,” he told the BBC.
“I’m afraid there has to be a change at the top in order that a government with a very large majority can be led by a person of integrity who will take forward the policies that will deal with the very real issues that ordinary families are facing now in their everyday lives.”
Mr Johnson was accused of “double standards” by former MP Neil Parish, who had the whip suspended immediately when it was revealed he had watched porn in the Commons.
In May, Mr Parish quit as MP for Tiverton and Honiton, triggering a by-election.
A month earlier, then-Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan was jailed for 18 months for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.
The Conservatives lost both by-elections. A third unnamed Tory MP has been told by whips to stay away from Parliament after being arrested on suspicion of rape and other offences. He has been bailed until mid-August.