BORIS Johnson appointed Chris Pincher to a ministerial position despite being aware of concerns about his conduct, Downing Street has confirmed.

The Prime Minister knew of claims which had been either been resolved or had not resulted in a formal complaint, his spokesman said, but did not consider it appropriate to block the appointment. No 10 had insisted over the weekend that the Tory leader was unaware of any "specific allegations". 

Pincher quit last week as deputy chief whip over allegations he groped two men at a Conservative private members’ club. The scandal poses a fresh threat to the PM's leadership as emboldened backbenchers react angrily. 

Pincher had previously resigned from the whips office in 2017 over claims he made unwanted advances to a young activist, but was reinstated in February after being cleared by an internal Conservative Party investigation.

Over the weekend, however, details emerged in the press of further claims about alleged sexual advances to men – including two fellow Conservative MPs – over a period of years.

Pincher has denied the allegations to the newspapers which carried them.

The National: Chris Pincher

However, Johnson’s spokesman said the Prime Minister had been aware of the “speculation” there had been about Pincher over a number of years when he made him deputy chief whip last February.

“I can’t get into too much detail but he did take advice on some of the allegations that had been made, but there was no formal complaint at that time and it was deemed not appropriate to stop an appointment simply because of unsubstantiated allegations,” the spokesman said.

“He was aware that there had been reports and speculation over the years with regards to this individual, but there were no specific allegations. There was no formal complaint at that time.”

The spokesman declined to comment on a claim by Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings that the Prime Minister had referred to the MP as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature”.

“I’m simply not going to comment on content of what was or wasn’t said in private conversations,” the spokesman said.

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The revelations will further boost the cause of rebel Tory MPs who want to see Johnson removed from office.

Johnson has survived one no-confidence vote, but disgruntled parliamentarians are seeking to change the rules of the 1922 backbench committee to ensure that a second vote can be held within the next few months. 

At the time Pincher was appointed in February – alongside new chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris – Johnson was facing pressure over lockdown parties in Downing Street.

The two men had run a shadow whipping operation – reportedly codenamed Operation Save Big Dog – to shore up his position and the Prime Minister was said to have wanted them to take over the full whips office.

The National: Prime Minister Boris Johnson

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Labour said the Prime Minister still has questions to answer over why exactly he appointed Pincher to such a sensitive position, which included responsibilities for the welfare of Tory MPs.

Shadow cabinet office minister Baroness Chapman told BBC Breakfast: “We want to know who knew what and when and why those decisions were made the way they were.”

“I don’t think anybody in Westminster believes that Boris Johnson did not know about the allegations about Mr Pincher.”

Although Pincher quit his government position on Thursday evening, Johnson has faced criticism that it was not until 5pm that he finally had the whip withdrawn and was expelled from the parliamentary Conservative Party.

Pincher now faces an investigation by Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme after one of the men he allegedly groped last week at the Carlton Club submitted a formal complaint.

In a statement at the weekend, the Tamworth MP – who now sits as an independent – said he would co-operate fully with the inquiry.

“As I told the Prime Minister, I drank far too much on Wednesday night, embarrassing myself and others, and I am truly sorry for the upset I caused,” he said.

“The stresses of the last few days, coming on top of those over the last several months, have made me accept that I will benefit from 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.”