Boris was briefed 'in person' over Chris Pincher allegations, ex-senior civil servant says

5 July 2022, 08:26 | Updated: 5 July 2022, 10:21

By Sophie Barnett

A former senior civil servant has accused No10 of lying about what it knew of allegations facing Chris Pincher, claiming Boris Johnson was briefed "in person" about an investigation into his conduct.

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Lord McDonald, who was previously in charge at the Foreign Office, claimed Boris Johnson was briefed "in person" about an investigation into Mr Pincher's conduct as a minister at the department.

The crossbench peer and former permanent secretary said Mr Pincher was "not exonerated" following an investigation into alleged inappropriate behaviour in 2019.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told LBC's Tom Swarbrick it is "not clear" to him "precisely what the PM was made aware of" concerning allegations regarding Mr Pincher.

Read more: Harry Dunn 'killer' fled as Pincher 'distracted' by misconduct probe, Labour MP suggests

In a fumbling interview he told Tom: "The point is that he wasn't aware of any action or any complaint that resulted in disciplinary action against Chris Pincher, and that is correct because the process had not resulted in that, and indeed, Sir Simon, now Lord, McDonald's, own advice to me was indeed what came back from the Cabinet Office.

"In relation to 2019 the complaint that was made was not something that triggered formal disciplinary action."

He added that it was "incorrect" to say the Prime Minister was told in person about the investigation in 2019.

Mr Raab did however admit that he spoke to Mr Pincher after allegations surfaced "in no uncertain terms".

"I spoke to him to say it must never be repeated," he told Tom, but said it fell below the level of a formal disciplinary process.

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

Since the deputy chief whip resigned last week after allegations of groping two men, No10 has said Mr Johnson was not aware of specific allegations.

But Lord McDonald, who was the permanent secretary in the Foreign Office between 2015 and 2020, has written to Parliament's standards commissioner saying Downing Street had made "inaccurate claims".

Lord McDonald said: "The original No 10 line is not true and the modification is still not accurate. Mr Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation.

"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."

Angela Rayner said it is "clear" the Prime Minister knew about the allegations and "lied" about what he knew.

The deputy Labour leader said: “Boris Johnson’s desperate attempts to cover up what he knew about sexual assault complaints against Chris Pincher before appointing him have been blown out the water.

“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.

“Boris Johnson is dragging British democracy through the muck. His appalling judgement has made Westminster a less safe place to work."

And in a bombshell interview with LBC's Tom Swarbrick, Labour's Emily Thornberry suggested that Harry Dunn's alleged killer was able to flee the country because Chris Pincher, the minister responsible for the Americas at the time, was "distracted" by a misconduct probe.

She said letting suspect Anne Sacoolas leave the UK "was clearly an example of the Foreign Office falling down on the job".

On Thursday August 27 2019, whilst Chris Pincher was Minister for America, the teenager was knocked off his motorbike and killed near American airbase RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire.

The suspect in that crash, Anne Sacoolas, remains in the United States claiming diplomatic immunity - despite his family campaigning for her to face the charges of causing his death by dangerous driving.