Boris Johnson was aware of “reports and speculation” about Chris Pincher’s behaviour before appointing him deputy chief whip, No.10 has admitted.
The prime minister is under pressure to explain what he knew when he gave Pincher the job of enforcing party discipline in February.
Pincher resigned from the post on Friday after he was accused of drunkenly groping two men at a private members’ club in London this week.
Downing Street and ministers have spent the weekend saying Johnson was not aware of “specific” allegations about Pincher.
Former No.10 adviser Dominic Cummings alleged Johnson had referred to the MP as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” long before appointing him.
The PM’s spokesperson said on Monday: “The prime minister was aware of media reports that others had seen over the years and some allegations that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint.
“But at the time of the appointment of the deputy chief whip he was not aware of any specific allegations.”
They added: “He was aware there had been reports and speculation over the years with regards to this individual.”
It is the second time Pincher has quit the whips office. He resigned as a junior whip in November 2017 following a complaint that he made an unwanted pass at the former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story.
Story, who was a young Tory activist at the time, alleged that year that the MP untucked the back of his shirt, massaged his neck and whispered “You’ll go far in the Tory Party”.
Fresh allegations emerged as Pincher said he is seeking “professional medical support” and hopes to return to represent his constituents “as soon as possible”.
The Mail on Sunday alleged that he threatened to report a parliamentary researcher to her boss after she tried to stop his “lecherous” advances to a young man at a Conservative Party conference.
The Sunday Times alleged that he made unwanted passes at two Conservative MPs in 2017 and 2018 – after his first resignation as a whip.
A Tory MP told the Independent he was groped on two occasions by Pincher, first in December 2021 and again last month.