Theresa May has repeatedly refused to say whether embattled Cabinet minister Gavin Williamson has told the truth about his personal conduct before he became an MP.
The Prime Minister ducked questions over the Defence Secretary’s departure from a fireplace company days after a meeting to discuss his relationship with a junior colleague.
Williamson has also refused to answer detailed queries about his move from Elgin and Hall in 2004, but has claimed that he had a “flirtatious relationship” with the woman concerned.
A key protege of the PM, he raised eyebrows by revealing in the Daily Mail his links to the unnamed former, just hours after the Guardian had asked him for answers to key questions about the incident.
On her trip to China, May was asked why the scrutiny of Williamson’s case was different from that of Damian Green, who was fired from Cabinet before Christmas following misconduct allegations.
Asked if she was confident the Defence Secretary had told “the truth about why he left Elgin and Hall”, the PM replied: “What has come out is something that happened even before Gavin was a member of parliament, let alone a minister.
“In relation to Damian Green, the report showed the ministerial code had been broken, it was on that basis that I took the decision.”
Pressed further on whether he had told the truth, she replied: “Gavin has told people about something that happened before he became a Member of Parliament, let alone became a minister.”
Williamson is under pressure to explain whether he was subject to an internal disciplinary process and why he kept the job at the firm off his official and social media profiles.
The Defence Secretary claimed the fling “never went further” than sharing a kiss with the woman “a couple of times” and that it “stopped as suddenly as it had started”.
He had told Daily Mail he decided to leave the company, on amicable terms, in order to save his marriage to wife Joanne, who forgave him.
Yet key questions remain, including why he failed to alert the Cabinet Office about the affair when he was first made a minister. He informed Whitehall and Downing Street only after being approached by the Guardian last week.
Williamson claims that he had informed local party officials of the incident when he was being selected for his Staffordshire seat in 2010.
His lawyers have refused to reveal whether the woman reported Williamson’s behaviour to her line manager and an internal process followed. The terms on which he departed and whether he received a payoff are also unknown.
The Defence Secretary was handed a shock promotion to his new Cabinet role last year, after predecessor Sir Michael Fallon was forced to quit over claims he had behaved inappropriately towards women.