Boris Johnson was given a “first-hand account” of inappropriate sexual behaviour by Chris Pincher before his appointment to the role of deputy chief whip, The Independent has learned.
The prime minister was told about specific claims against the Tory MP on at least two occasions, according to a senior Downing Street source.
No 10 declined to comment on both alleged conversations.
Claims of what Mr Johnson knew and when came as his official spokesperson sought to qualify previous statements that suggested the prime minister was unaware of specific allegations regarding Mr Pincher’s conduct.
The first conversation alleging “inappropriate sexual touching” on the part of Mr Pincher took place in early February this year, shortly before his formal appointment to deputy chief whip on 8 February, it is claimed.
His alleged misconduct was raised again in May when reports emerged of inappropriate behaviour of an unnamed MP, which was later revealed to be the former deputy chief whip, the source told The Independent.
Asked about Mr Pincher’s conduct, the No 10 staffer said: “The prime minister was made directly aware of a first-hand account of inappropriate sexual touching. He was told in early February and also in May.”
It comes as Sky News reported that Carrie Johnson openly questioned Mr Pincher’s suitability as a government whip as early as 2017.
Mr Pincher has firmly denied a slew of allegations related to groping fellow MPs, activists and others which have emerged since he resigned as deputy chief whip after admitting drinking too much and embarrassing himself and others at the Carlton Club last week.
Over the weekend one Tory MP told The Independent how he had been groped on two occasions by Mr Pincher, including having his genitals touched over his clothes.
The No 10 spokesman on Monday said the prime minister was aware of “media reports” and “allegations that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint”.
They added that in the absence of a formal complaint “it was deemed not appropriate to stop an appointment on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations”.
The spokesman was also unable to say what, if any, efforts were made to establish if allegations could be substantiated – and indicated Mr Pincher was not asked about them directly.
Downing Street has not denied an allegation from former top aide Dominic Cummings that the prime minister had referred to the former deputy chief whip as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” ahead of his appointment to the role.
Instead, the spokesman said he would not comment on the content of private conversations.
The scandal comes as No 10 is preparing for a fresh of round elections to the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs. The elections could present another challenge to Mr Johnson’s premiership, with some outspoken rebels warning they intend to stand.
Mr Pincher had the Whip removed from him on Friday, so he can no longer sit as a Conservative MP in the house of commons. The suspension will be in force pending the outcome of an investigation from parliament’s independent complaints service.
The former deputy chief whip, who held a sensitive role overseeing party discipline within parliament, stood down after it was alleged that he groped two men at the tory-linked Carlton Club, a private members club in central London.
In his resignation letter, Mr Pincher wrote that he “drank far too much” and embarrassed himself and others.
However, over the weekend he indicated an intention to remain an MP. He said in a statement that he would seek 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,” he said.
It could be several months before the investigation into the most recent complaint against Mr Pincher concludes.
The Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme was set up in the wake of the “Pestminster” scandal to deal with complaints relating to bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct by MPs, peers and parliamentary staff.
However, figures show that the average length of investigation closed in 2020-21 lasted 196 working days, while the longest inquiry took 572 working days to conclude – representing more than two years.
The string of allegations in news reports over the weekend, all denied by Mr Pincher, span a course of several years.
The Mail on Sunday carried claims that he made unwanted advances against an individual a decade ago.
The Sunday Times reported allegations that Mr Pincher had groped a male Tory MP in 2017, made unwanted advances towards a different Conservative MP in 2018, and did the same towards a Tory activist in Tamworth in 2019.