Boris Johnson 'not aware of specific allegations' made against Pincher, minister says

3 July 2022, 10:57 | Updated: 3 July 2022, 11:16

By Asher McShane

Cabinet minister Therese Coffey battled to defend the Prime Minister over his decision to give a key ministerial role to an MP facing numerous sexual misconduct allegations.

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Speaking to Tom Swarbrick on Swarbrick on Sunday, Ms Coffey said Boris Johnson had no knowledge about "specific claims" about Chris Pincher before appointing him deputy chief whip.

She also said allegations made against Chris Pincher in the past were "not upheld".

She added that Mr Johnson was "not aware of specific allegations" made against the former deputy chief whip.

"I’ve been told today that the PM was not aware of specific allegations and those are now in the investigation process," she said on LBC.

Read more: PM accused of 'turning blind eye to Chris Pincher warnings' as more allegations emerge

She refused to be drawn on whether he should stand down as an MP, but told Tom: “What matters is now formal allegations have been made, he’s under an independent investigation. That process needs to be allowed to run its course.

“Other allegations have been made in the past where he underwent an investigation. Those were not upheld.

“I’m aware that very specific allegations have now been made and it’s important that be taken forward.

“As ever I always encourage people, if they think criminal offences have been made, they should refer them to the police.”

The Prime Minister has been accused of deliberately ignoring warnings about Mr Pincher, as fresh allegations against the MP emerged.

Six new claims of inappropriate behaviour have emerged, days after he was suspended as a Tory MP.

Mr Pincher resigned from his post and had the Tory whip withdrawn after allegations he 'groped' two men after drinking "far too much" at a Tory private members club.

The Telegraph reports Boris Johnson was warned about previous allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr Pincher prior to his appointment.

The paper says he turned a blind eye to the claims - and even lost another whip over it, with Craig Whittaker now said to have resigned in protest at Mr Pincher's appointment.

Read more: Tory MP Chris Pincher seeking 'professional medical support' after 'groping' allegations

Read more: James O'Brien reacts as MP's career hangs in balance amid groping claims

Mr Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip on Thursday.

In his resignation letter he said he had "embarrassed myself and other people" after drinking "far too much".

Whilst the letter made no direct reference to allegations levelled against him, The Sun reported Mr Pincher had been accused of groping two men.

Since then other allegations have been made.

The Times reported a young Tory activist said he had received an unwanted sexual advance from Mr Pincher last year.

And on Saturday night the Independent said an anonymous Tory MP had claimed to have been groped twice by the former deputy chief whip.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey insisted Mr Johnson was "not aware of specific claims" about Mr Pincher before making him Tory deputy chief whip.

She said on Sky this morning: "I am aware that the Prime Minister was not aware of specific claims that had been made."

Mr Johnson is now facing tough questions over what he had been told prior to appointing Mr Pincher.

Dominic Cummings accused him of "lying again" and said the Prime Minister referred to the MP "laughingly in No 10 as 'Pincher by name, pincher by nature' long before appointing him".

Read more: 'Double standards!': Neil Parish slams govt for not withdrawing whip from Chris Pincher

Read more: PM faces backlash for delay suspending MP over 'disturbing groping' allegations

But a No 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister had not been made aware of anything that would have prevented the appointment going ahead.

When Mr Johnson came under fire on Friday for not immediately withdrawing the whip from Mr Pincher, the spokesperson said: "In the absence of any formal complaints, it was not appropriate to stop an appointment on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations."

Whilst Mr Pincher quit his post as deputy chief whip and was suspended from the Tory party, he remains an MP.

On Saturday he said he was "truly sorry for the upset I caused" and said he was seeking "professional medical support".

"I respect the Prime Minister's decision to suspend the whip whilst an inquiry is underway, and I will cooperate fully with it," he said.

Read more: Tory whip quits post saying he 'drank too much' amid 'groping' allegations

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"As I told the Prime Minister, I drank far too much on Wednesday night, embarrassing myself and others and I am truly sorry for the upset I caused.

"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.

"I am in the process of seeking that now, and I hope to be able to return to my constituency duties as soon as possible."