'It is a prime minister in crisis': ITV News Political Correspondent Shehab Khan reports on what the dramatic resignations of two key cabinet ministers means for Boris Johnson's premiership
Boris Johnson has admitted he knew about allegations of sexual misconduct against Christopher Pincher and said he regrets hiring him as his deputy chief whip.
Asked if it was a grave error to hire the MP, the prime minister said: "Yes, I think it was a mistake and I apologise for it. In hindsight it was the wrong thing to do."
Mr Johnson did not deny referring to the Tamworth politician as "Pincher by name, Pincher by nature," as his former chief adviser Dominic Cummings claimed.
"What I can tell you is that, when I look at the background of this and why I regret it so much, is that about three years ago there was a complaint about Chris Pincher in the Foreign Office," the PM said when asked whether he made the joke.
He added: "The complaint was cleared up, he apologised, it was raised with me, orally I was briefed on what had happened and, if I had my time again, I would think back on it and recognise that he wasn't going to learn any lesson and he wasn't going to change."
Boris Johnson says he regrets hiring Chris Pincher
Shortly after the PM admitted he made an error in the Pincher appointment, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Healthy Secretary Sajid Javid resigned from the government, in what may be a politically fatal blow for Mr Johnson.
In his resignation letter, Mr Sunak said that the government should be run “properly, competently and seriously”.
"I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning,” he wrote in the letter, which was published on Twitter.
Mr Javid said in his letter that following last month’s vote of confidence “it is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership – and you have therefore lost my confidence too”.
He added that the British people “expect integrity from their government” but voters now believed Mr Johnson’s administration was neither competent nor “acting in the national interest”.
Number 10 admitted for the first time on Tuesday, following days of denials, that Mr Johnson was aware of allegations against Mr Pincher before appointing him.
The MP quit government on Thursday after admitted he had "drank far too much" at a Tory private members' club and "embarrassed" himself.
It's been reported that he "groped" two men in the alleged incident but numerous other accusations have surfaced since then, including a similar claim in 2017 which led to him resigning as a whip for the first time.
The PM's judgement was brought into question, given he appointed a man who had previously quit over sexual misconduct allegations into a role which involves disciplining MPs.
Ministers spent days insisting Mr Johnson was not aware of specific allegations facing the MP before appointing him, but a letter by a senior civil servant blew that defence out of the water.
Lord Simon McDonald wrote to the parliamentary standards commissioner, telling her that similar allegations were made against Mr Pincher in 2019 when he worked in the Foreign Office and the PM was briefed "in person" about an investigation into his conduct.
The civil servant, who was permanent under secretary and head of the Diplomatic Service at the Foreign Office when allegations against Mr Pincher were made, said there was a "formal complaint" which Prime Minister Johnson was told about.
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He said he felt compelled to speak out about Mr Pincher - who resigned last week over allegations he "groped" two men in a private members’ club - "because No 10 keep changing their story and are still not telling the truth".
Prime Minister Johnson, asked whether he lied to ministers and officials who denied to journalists his knowledge of concerns around Mr Pincher, said: "We're taking about a series of appointments over several years.
"Chris Pincher came into government as deputy chief whip before I became prime minister, he was moved to the Foreign Office, he then went on to be a minister for housing and we then moved him back to be deputy chief whip.
"About two and a half years ago I got this complaint, it was something that was only raised with only very cursorily but I wish that we had - I in particular - had acted on it and that he had not continued in government."