Ministers should “consider their positions” in Boris Johnson’s government amid mounting anger over No 10’s response to misconduct complaints against Christopher Pincher, a Tory MP has suggested.
The remarks from William Wragg came just minutes after minister Michael Ellis admitted the prime minister was “made aware” in late 2019 of concerns relating to Mr Pincher – then a minister at the Foreign Office.
Prompting laughter in the Commons, the Cabinet Office minister, however, insisted Mr Johnson did not “immediately recall” the exchange when fresh allegations emerged about Mr Pincher’s conduct last week.
It also follow an explosive letter from the former head of the Foreign Office, Sir Simon McDonald, who accused No 10 of not telling the truth over whether the prime minister was warned about the alleged behaviour of Mr Pincher.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Wragg said minister should ask themselves “if they can any longer tolerate being part of a government which, for better or worse, is widely regarded of having lost its sense of direction”.
He said government frontbenchers should “consider what they are being asked to say in public which changes seemingly by the hour”.
“It is for them to consider their positions, this is not a question of systems, it is a question of political judgement and that political judgement cannot be delegated,” the Tory MP added during an urgent question.
John Penrose, a Conservative MP who resigned as the government’s anti-corruption tsar just last month, also asked Mr Ellis when he would finally say “enough is enough” and no longer defend Mr Johnson’s government.
“One of the seven Nolan principles is honesty. Number 10 was previously accused without rebuttal of lacking leadership by Sue Gray in her report over what went on over Partygate,” he added.
“How many more of the seven principles are they going to have to breach before he will stand up and say ‘enough is enough?”’
Another Tory MP, Caroline Johnson, also asked the Cabinet Office minister why Mr Pincher was not sacked in 2019, if the allegations made against him were “similar” to those made about “bad behaviour” at the Carlton Club last week.
She said: “What he said is that the prime minister knew the allegation in 2019. He said that discomfort was caused, and he said that the right honourable member for Tamworth apologised.
“The allegations as reported from the time at the Carlton club included sexual assault. Can he confirm if the allegations made back in 2019 were of sexual assault?
“And if they were, and they were upheld and apologised, why the police weren’t involved? Why wasn’t he sacked at the time, never mind given another job?”
The Cabinet Office minister said he is unable “to speak to that”, adding: “We must do everything we can to protect the confidentiality of those who make complaints. I’m very concerned that the way in which this matter has been processed by some individuals means that it opens up a risk of a breach of confidentiality.”