Own Street on Monday admitted Boris Johnson had been aware of media reports and allegations of misconduct involving former minister Chris Pincher – but still went ahead with his appointment as deputy chief whip in February.
Ministers and No 10 previously said the Prime Minister was not aware of any specific allegations about Mr Pincher, who had the Conservative party whip removed on Friday, a day after he resigned from his post as he claimed to have groped two men at a party at a private members’ club.
But as Mr Johnson came under increasing pressure to explain what he knew of past allegations of wrongdoing, his official spokesman said today he had been made aware of media reports and other allegations regarding Mr. Pincher’s behavior.
He added: “There have been allegations that have either been resolved or have not resulted in a formal complaint.
“It was not appropriate to stop a date based on unsubstantiated allegations.” The spokesperson said the Prime Minister had taken advice from fellow politicians and civil servants before pursuing the appointment of Mr Pincher.
The MP for Tamworth resigned as Deputy Chief Whip last week after being accused of groping two men while intoxicated at the Carlton Club last week.
He admitted he had ’embarrassed myself and other people’ on Wednesday, but denied sexual harassment.
The Tory whip was removed from office on Friday night – meaning he now sits as an independent MP – and has been told not to travel to the parliamentary grounds until an investigation is completed.
Since his resignation last week, at least 13 allegations of prior inappropriate behavior have emerged.
In a statement, Mr Pincher said he was “truly sorry” for his conduct and was seeking “professional medical support”.
“The stress of the last few days, which is added to that of the last months, made me accept to benefit from professional medical support,” he said.
In 2017, Mr Pincher went to the police and ‘voluntarily stepped down’ from the whips office following allegations he made an unwanted sexual advance to the former Olympic rower and Tory activist Alex Story.
A party investigation cleared him of breaching his code of conduct.
Education Minister Will Quince called the allegations against Mr Pincher ‘indefensible’ as the disgraced MP faced mounting pressure to step down as an MP.
Mr Quince said unacceptable behavior should be ‘reported to the police and all appropriate authorities’ following more than a dozen complaints about Mr Pincher’s conduct.
“I’m definitely not going to defend the former deputy chief whip,” Mr Quince said.
“The allegations are incredibly serious and I am appalled by them.” He added that the allegations were “indefensible”.
Mr Quince said he received ‘categorical assurance’ from No 10 that the Prime Minister was not aware of any specific claims when he appointed Mr Pincher deputy chief whip in February.
It follows claims by former chief adviser Dominic Cummings that Mr Johnson called the MP a ‘pincher by name, pincher by nature’ before handing him the role.
The Prime Minister was due 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 trips to the G7 and NATO, but Downing Street expected he would also be questioned about his prior knowledge of Mr Pincher’s conduct.
Tory MP Sir Roger Gale today said it was the latest in a long line of scandals which challenged the ‘Prime Minister’s judgement’. “We can’t go on like this,” he told the BBC.
“I’m afraid there needs to be a change at the top so that a government with a very large majority can be led by a person of integrity who will push forward policies that will address the very real issues of ordinary families. they face today in their daily 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 viewed pornography in the Commons.
In May, Mr Parish resigned as MP for Tiverton and Honiton, triggering a by-election.
A month earlier, Imran Ahmad Khan, then MP for Wakefield, had been 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 ordered by whips to stay away from Parliament after being arrested on suspicion of rape and other offences. He was released on bail until mid-August.