Credible World News, 24/7 – 365

No 10 not telling truth over Chris Pincher, says former top civil servant

Boris Johnson briefed in person about 2019 complaint of alleged groping by ex-deputy chief whip, says Simon McDonald

Boris Johnson’s claim that he was not aware of prior specific allegations against Chris Pincher is falling apart, after a former top civil servant wrote a formal letter to allege that Downing Street’s version of events was untrue.

In a highly unusual move, Simon McDonald, who had been the most senior official in the Foreign Office and is now a crossbench peer, told the parliamentary standards commissioner that the prime minister was briefed in person about a 2019 complaint of alleged groping by the former Conservative deputy chief whip.

Speaking later to the BBC, McDonald said Downing Street needed to “come clean”, and that some ministers’ statements on Pincher had been wrong.

Dominic Raab, who was foreign secretary at the time, confirmed to the BBC that he had launched an investigation into claims about Pincher, then a junior Foreign Office minister, who resigned as deputy chief whip after being accused of drunkenly groping two men.

However, Raab said he did not know if Johnson had been briefed about the inquiry, as McDonald said. Raab said: “That’s news to me, I wasn’t aware of that. It’s not clear to me that that is factually accurate.”

Parliament an unsafe workplace due to sexual misconduct by MPs, say unionsRead more

He added: “I have discussed this with the prime minister over the last 24 hours. It is not my understanding that he was directly briefed.”

Asked if Johnson had specifically said he was not briefed, Raab added: “To be honest with you, I didn’t ask him. He didn’t raise it.”

McDonald’s letter, sent to Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary standards commissioner, and tweeted on Tuesday morning, appears to demolish the insistence of No 10 spokespeople and a series of ministers that Johnson was not aware of any “specific” allegations against Pincher before last week.

On Monday, Johnson’s official spokesman amended this to argue that the prime minister had been aware of allegations, but that these were “either resolved or did not proceed to a formal complaint”.

In a scathing letter, McDonald, a long-time senior diplomat who was permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office from 2015 to 2020 and became a peer in 2021, made it clear he believed this was also untrue.

In the summer of 2019, shortly after Pincher became a Foreign Office minister, McDonald wrote, a group of officials complained about his behaviour, McDonald said, saying the claims were “similar” to those that emerged last week. An investigation upheld the complaint and Pincher apologised, he added.

Chris Pincher: a timeline of allegations and investigationsRead more

It was, McDonald wrote, “not true” for No 10 to claim either that Johnson did not knew about earlier complaints, or the amended line about the only complaint he knew about being unsubstantiated.

“Mr Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation,” the letter said. “There was a ‘formal complaint’. Allegations were ‘resolved’ only in the sense that the investigation was completed; Mr Pincher was not exonerated. To characterise the allegations as ‘unsubstantiated’ is therefore wrong.”

He added: “I am aware that is unusual to write to you and simultaneously publicise the letter. I am conscious of the duty owed to the target of an investigation but I act out of of my duty towards the victims.

“Mr Pincher deceived me and others in 2019. He cannot be allowed to use the confidentiality of the process three years ago to pursue his predatory behaviour in other contexts.”

Talking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday, McDonald said he knew for certain that a senior official briefed Johnson because that official then told him.

McDonald said: “I think they need to come clean. I think that the language is ambiguous, the sort of telling the truth and crossing your fingers at the same time and hoping that people are not too forensic in their subsequent questioning and I think that is not working.”

He singled out media comments by the children’s minister, Will Quince, on Monday that Johnson was “not aware of specific allegations”, saying: “The categorical assurance was wrong.”

Asked about the letter on Today, Raab confirmed the investigation had taken place. He said: “Simon and myself both spoke to Chris Pincher in person to make it clear that the inappropriate behaviour should never be repeated.”

Raab said he told the then-chief whip, but did not know if the prime minister was informed.

Related articles

Boris Johnson said ‘hasta la vista, baby’ but does he think ‘I’ll return”?

Few would rule out the prime minister staging a comeback, if only to prove his opponents wrong 01:44 Having departed the dispatch box with the words “hasta la vista, baby” and told MPs “mission largely accomplished – for now”, Boris Johnson was typically attention-seeking during his final prime minister’s questions. “He cannot stand not having […]

Highland Hounds battle the Scottish Munros as mountain treks grow in popularity

Owners take their canine companions to ‘bag’ a peak as staycationers seek out ever more challenging beauty spots Betty, a six-year-old kerry blue terrier, celebrated reaching the summit of her 282nd and final Munro – Am Basteir on Skye – with a hard-boiled egg. Her owner, Shona Marshall, toasted her dog’s entry into the rarefied […]

The Sri Lankan president resigns following leaving protests in the country hit by crisis

Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled country on Wednesday after protesters occupied presidential palace Gotabaya Rajapaksa has resigned as president of Sri Lanka, after fleeing on Wednesday following weeks of mass protests over the country’s economic crisis. Rajapaksa’s office said his resignation letter had been received by the country’s parliamentary speaker, after it was flown from Singapore, where […]

Netherlands forward Lieke Martens to miss rest of Euro 2022 with foot injury

Martens suffered injury during Sunday’s win over Switzerland ‘This is terrible news for Lieke and us’ says coach Mark Parsons The Netherlands forward Lieke Martens has been ruled out of Women’s Euro 2022 with a foot problem, in the latest injury blow to hit the defending champions. The 29-year-old, who signed for Paris Saint-Germain from […]

What does EU’s partial oil ban mean for Russia and rest of Europe?

Ban on seaborne oil aims to cut off funds for Kremlin war machine, but some warn it could help Moscow in short term What’s been agreed? After nearly a month of wrangling, the European Union has agreed to a partial ban on Russian oil, with the aim of cutting off funding to the Kremlin’s war […]

Shell announces PS10bn quarterly profit as families have to deal with their debts

Oil company to give shareholders £6.5bn after benefiting from price surge following Ukraine invasion Shell made record profits of nearly £10bn between April and June and promised to give shareholders payouts worth £6.5bn as the oil supermajor benefited from the surge in energy prices prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The FTSE 100 company made […]

Sciver and Davidson-Richards set England in charge of South Africa

England 328-6 lead South Africa 284 by 44 runs Batters both score centuries to give hosts command A maiden Test century from Nat Sciver, and an equally impressive hundred from Alice Davidson-Richards on Test debut, helped England post 328 for six onday two at Taunton, leading South Africa by 44 runs, to place the hosts […]