DOWNING Street did not tell the truth when it said Boris Johnson was unaware of official complaints about Chris Pincher’s misbehaviour, a former senior civil servant in the Foreign Office said yesterday.
Former Foreign Office Permanent Secretary, Simon McDonald, insisted that Johnson had been ‘briefed in person’ about an investigation into Pincher, then a Foreign Office minister.
In response to McDonald’s statement, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Ellis appeared in the House of Commons yesterday and claimed that Johnson ‘did not immediately recall’ hearing about a 2019 complaint about Pincher’s behaviour when fresh allegations arose about him last week.
Pincher, the MP for Tamworth, was suspended as a Conservative Party MP last week over allegations he groped two men at the Carlton Club, a private members’ club for Tory MPs and prominent Tories in London.
On Monday, Downing Street claimed Johnson was not aware of any specific allegations against Pincher when he appointed him deputy chief whip in February, but later that day, BBC News revealed that he had been aware of a formal complaint about the MP.
Yesterday morning, in a strongly-worded letter to the parliamentary standards commissioner, McDonald disputed No 10’s version of events.
McDonald, who was the Foreign Office’s most senior civil servant from 2015 to 2020, said that in the summer of 2019, a group of officials had ‘complained to me about Mr Pincher’s behaviour.
‘In substance, the allegations were similar to those made about his behaviour at the Carlton Club.’
He said an investigation upheld the complaint, adding: ‘Mr Pincher apologised and promised not to repeat the inappropriate behaviour. Mr Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation.’
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said in the House of Commons yesterday that the government is ‘paralysed with scandal’, adding: ‘This constant charade will not wash. These latest disturbing allegations about the ministerial misconduct are all about abuse of power.’
She said: ‘And why was this conduct not considered a breach of the ministerial code? Why did the Prime Minister allow him to stay in post? This goes to the heart of wider issues here, Mr Speaker, and the public have had enough.’