A TORY minister has defended Boris Johnson over allegations he ignored concerns about an MP alleged to be a sex pest by claiming the Prime Minister forgot he had been accused in the past.

Reports have emerged since Christopher Pincher’s dramatic resignation that the Prime Minister was aware of an investigation in 2019 which found the MP had acted inappropriately but was not punished for his conduct.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis faced a grilling from MPs over the matter in Parliament on Tuesday and claimed the Prime Minister had forgotten being told about the 2019 probe.

In response to an MP challenging this statement, Ellis said: “The Prime Minister has a myriad array of urgent and pressing responsibilities. He may be told literally hundreds of things in any one day.

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“The reality is, I cannot obviously speak exactly to somebody else’s mind, whoever that person may be but if she says to the house that she has never forgotten anything … or misremembered something then I don’t accept that.”

Ellis, who was dubbed “the minster for defending the indefensible”, backed accusations Labour and LibDem MPs only showed up in the Commons to “bash Boris”, as the Government again found itself embroiled in scandal after it emerged an alleged sex pest MP was promoted despite concerns about his behaviour being known.

Christopher Pincher resigned as deputy chief Tory whip last week after he allegedly drunkenly groped two men in a private members club in London.

He has since had the party whip stripped and is now facing more than a dozen accusations of misconduct.

Facing blistering criticism from opponents and his own benches during a parliamentary debate on standards on Tuesday, Ellis attempted to portray the issue as insignificant compared to other crises such as the cost of living and the war in Ukraine.

The National: Disgraced Tory MP Chris Pincher Disgraced Tory MP Chris Pincher

He accused opponents of focusing on “personalities not policies” by raising concerns about Pincher’s behaviour and the Prime Minister’s apparent refusal to take seriously accusations about the MP.

Pincher faced an investigation in 2019, which the Prime Minister was directly informed about, over accusations he had acted inappropriately in a similar way to his alleged conduct in the Carlton Club last week.

Hitting back at allegations from Labour’s Chris Bryant the Prime Minister “whenever he gets into trouble tries to destroy the system”, Ellis accused the MP of taking a “sanctimonious” tone.

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He added: “Taking the moral high ground is not something I think fits well.

“I think he should bear in mind, that it is moral to treat people fairly and that includes the victims and that includes the accused”. 

And Ellis faced criticisms from his Tory colleagues, including prominent rebel and Johnson critic William Wragg, who said the Government’s story about what was known and when about Pincher’s behaviour was “changing seemingly by the hour”.

But Conservative MP Peter Bone backed the Government, accusing others of focusing on the wrong issues.

He said: “I remember recently there was a Brexit opportunities debate [in Parliament]. There were no Liberal Democrats, there were virtually no Labour members.

“The only time they turn up here is to bash Boris.

“Do you think our constituents are more concerned about an MP they’ve never heard about or the biggest tax reduction in decades, which is going to happen tomorrow?”

The 2019 probe was revealed by crossbench peer Simon McDonald, a former top civil servant in the Foreign Office when the investigation into Pincher was conducted.

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The investigation was completed “to the satisfaction of all involved”, Ellis said and did not result in the MP being punished.

But concerns about the MP’s conduct have hampered his prospects in the past, it has been reported.

He resigned from the whips office in 2017 over claims he made unwanted advances to a Tory activist but was later cleared by an internal investigation carried out by the party.

And The Times reports Johnson himself had opted not to appoint Pincher as chief whip in his first Cabinet in 2019 over concerns about his past behaviour.

Carrie Johnson also reportedly raised concerns about his suitability for the whips office in 2017, when head of communications at Conservative Campaign Headquarters.