Chris Pincher: No 10 not telling the truth, says ex-senior civil servanton July 5, 2022 at 10:07 am

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Boris Johnson was briefed in person about an inquiry into Chris Pincher’s behaviour, says ex-civil servant chief.

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No 10 did not tell the truth when it said the PM was unaware of official complaints about Chris Pincher’s behaviour, a former senior civil servant in the Foreign Office has said.

Simon McDonald said Boris Johnson had been “briefed in person” about an investigation into Mr Pincher, then a Foreign Office minister.

The foreign secretary at the time, and now justice secretary, Dominic Raab, said everything had been “done by the book”.

He told BBC News it was “news to me”, and he did not think it was “factually accurate” that the PM had been briefed.

Mr 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 in London. He says he is seeking professional medical support and has denied misconduct.

On Monday, Downing Street said Mr Johnson was not aware of any specific allegations against Mr Pincher when he appointed him deputy chief whip in February.

However, later that day, BBC News revealed that the prime minister had been aware of a formal complaint about the MP.

Now, in a strongly-worded letter to the parliamentary standards commissioner, Lord McDonald has disputed No 10’s version of events.

Lord 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 that: “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,” he added.

Sir Simon McDonald

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Raab said: “I have discussed this with the prime minister over the last 24 hours, it is not my understanding that he was directly briefed.”

“In relation to the 2019 allegation or complaint, whilst there was inappropriate behaviour, it didn’t trip the wire into disciplinary action,” he said.

He said he informed the chief whip, who at the time was Mark Spencer, about the investigation, but not the prime minister.

Asked if somebody else had told Mr Johnson, Mr Rabb said “that is news to me” adding that “It is not clear to me that was factually accurate.”

Appearing on the same programme shortly afterwards, Lord McDonald defended his assertion saying: “I know that the senior official briefed the prime minister in person because that official told me that at the time.

“Such complaints about ministers are very rare, very sensitive, they are dealt with at the very top level and so I had the help and support of the Cabinet Office throughout the investigation.”

He said Downing Street needed to “come clean” adding: “No 10 have had five full days to get the story correct and that has still not happened.”

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “It is now clear that the prime minister knew about the seriousness of these complaints but decided to promote this man to a senior position in government anyway. He refused to act and then lied about what he knew.”

The Liberal Democrats deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Lord McDonald has shone a new light on this murky cover-up. Boris Johnson needs to own up to his web of lies and finally come clean today.”

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