Boris Johnson was “personally briefed” on an allegation of improper conduct against disgraced MP Chris Pincher in 2019, a former senior official has claimed.
Since Deputy Chief Whip resigned from his post last week following allegations of groping two men, Number 10 said the Prime Minister was not aware of any specific allegations.
But Lord McDonald, who was Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office between 2015 and 2020, has written to Parliament’s Standard Commissioner that Downing Street had made “inaccurate allegations”.
Political center: Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure to explain
He tweeted the letter, saying: “This morning I wrote to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards – because No 10 keeps changing their story and still isn’t telling the truth.”
In the letter he wrote: “The original line #10 is not true and the amendment is still not accurate. It was Mr. Johnson
personally informed about the initiation and outcome of the investigation.
“There was a ‘formal complaint’. Allegations were ‘settled’ only in the sense that the investigation was closed; Mr Pincher was not exonerated. Characterizing the allegations as ‘unfounded’ is therefore incorrect.”
Mr Johnson chaired a cabinet meeting this morning and let in cameras for his opening speech – but didn’t allow questions from journalists.
Surrounded by his grave ministers, the Prime Minister spoke about the cost of living crisis and his plans to tackle it, but there was no mention of the letter from Mr Pincher or Lord McDonald.
Tory MP and critic of Prime Minister John Penrose called the letter “dynamite” and tweeted that it showed “another serious breach” of the Ministers Code and that Mr Johnson’s “promised resignation” after Partygate had “no credibility” because have not changed their behavior at all”.
Shortly before the letter was published, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News’ Kay Burley he knew about the allegation when he was Foreign Secretary in 2019.
He said he had “made it absolutely clear” to Mr Pincher that the behavior “must never be repeated” and he referred it to both the Civil Service and the Cabinet Office for investigation.
However, Mr Raab said the investigation had “not prompted any disciplinary action” and he had only told the Prime Minister about the incident “in the last few days”.
The deputy prime minister also described Mr Pincher as “an exceptional minister” and said it was right to allow the independent inquiry to draw its own conclusions.
Full text of the letter
Five days after Mr Pincher’s resignation as Deputy Chief Whip, there remains considerable confusion over complaints about his conduct prior to the intoxication he admits to at the Carlton Club on June 29.
Inaccurate claims made by 10 Downing Street continue to be repeated in the media. On July 3, the BBC website reported: “No official complaints against it [Mr Pincher] were ever made.”
That is not true. In the summer of 2019, shortly after his appointment as Minister of State at the Foreign Office, a group of officials complained to me about Mr. Pincher’s conduct. I have raised the matter with the relevant official in the Cabinet Office. (In essence, the allegations were similar to those made about his behavior at the Carlton Cub.) An inquest confirmed the complaint; Mr Pincher apologized and promised not to repeat the inappropriate behavior. There was no replay at the FCO before he left seven months later.
The same report on the BBC website went on: “Downing Street has said Boris Johnson was not aware of any specific allegations when he appointed Mr Pincher Deputy Chief Whip in February.” By July 4, the BBC website reflected a change reflected in the line from No. 10: “The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson was aware of ‘allegations which have either been resolved or have not resulted in a formal complaint’, adding that ‘it was not considered appropriate a Terminate appointment only on baseless allegations’.”
The original line #10 is not true and the modification is still not accurate. Mr Johnson was personally informed of the initiation and outcome of the investigation. There was a “formal complaint”. Allegations were “resolved” only in the sense that the investigation was closed; Mr Pincher was not exonerated. Characterizing the claims as “unsubstantiated” is therefore incorrect.
I realize that it is unusual to write to you and publish the letter at the same time. I am aware of my duty to the objective of an investigation, but I am acting out of my duty to the victims. Mr. Pincher fooled me and others in 2019. He must not be allowed to use the confidentiality of the proceedings three years ago to pursue his predatory behavior in other contexts.
Labor Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said it was “now clear that the Prime Minister was aware of the seriousness of these grievances but decided to promote this man to a higher position in Government anyway”, adding: ” He refused to act and then lied about what he knew.
“Boris Johnson is dragging British democracy through the mud. His appalling verdict has made Westminster a less secure place to work.”
Mr Pincher resigned as Deputy Prime Minister on Thursday following allegations that he drunkenly groped two men at a private club in London earlier this week.
The party whip was only removed from him as an independent MP for his Tamworth constituency on Friday afternoon, after the Prime Minister bowed to pressure and lodged a formal complaint with Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS).
A number of ministers have since taken to the airwaves to reiterate Number 10’s defense Mr Johnsonincluding Education Secretary Will Quince, who said he had received “categorical assurances,” the Prime Minister is not aware of any serious specific allegations.
But on Monday Sky News revealed the Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, questioned Mr Pincher’s suitability as a government whip back in 2017.
Follow the daily podcast onApple Podcasts, google podcasts, spotify, speaker
Labor Attorney General Emily Thornberry said Downing Street “tells us different things on different days… and in time the truth emerges”.
She told Sky News that Mr Johnson “turned a blind eye to all allegations because it was fitting for the Prime Minister to turn a blind eye to them,” adding: “We need a country run by a decent, honorable person .”
Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper also said Lord McDonald had “shed new light on this grim cover-up”.
She added: “Boris Johnson needs to own up to his web of lies and finally get clean today. Every day our politics are dragged further through the mud.”
And the SNP’s Brendan O’Hara called for an investigation into the prime minister, saying the letter “destroys claims made by Boris Johnson and raises serious questions about whether he lied and broke the ministerial code”.