Sunak non-committal when asked if Chris Pincher should resign as an MP
Rishi Sunak did not say whether disgraced former Tory whip Chris Pincher should resign as an MP when challenged on a visit to Devon.
Mr Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip on June 30 after allegedly groping two men at a Tory private members’ club in London, and has since had the Conservative whip withdrawn.
The incident, along with revelations of other allegations against Mr Pincher of unwanted sexual advances, raised questions over Boris Johnson’s handling of the situation and his statements about what he knew of previous allegations, which played a crucial role in the Prime Minister losing the support of a significant number of his own MPs and ultimately announcing he would step down.
I think trust is really important and standards are really important in public life. I think honesty is important
Speaking to reporters in Devon, Mr Sunak was asked if Mr Pincher should resign his seat in the Commons in order to restore trust.
Mr Sunak said: “I think trust is really important and standards are really important in public life. I think honesty is important.
“And that’s why in this leadership campaign, even though it’s not easy for me, I want to be honest about some of the challenges we face and what’s going to be required to fix them.
“Now in terms of restoring trust into public life I would want to reappoint quickly an independent adviser to make sure that ministers and the government are held to account for their behaviour.
“That’s something that’s important to me and I think the outside world needs to see that it’s important to Government. I will lead a government that does do exactly that.”
Earlier in the day, the former chancellor was asked about accusations he is a “backstabber” on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, but said he would not comment specifically on “what others are choosing to say”.
Mr Sunak added: “I will tackle the broader claim that they (the accusations) relate to, because I do think there is a risk that people are looking at the last few months of the Government with slightly rose-tinted glasses about what it was really like.
“Because it wasn’t working as it should, and crucially the Government found itself on the wrong side of a very serious ethical issue, and, for me, also going down the wrong economic path, and that’s why in the end more than 60 MPs at the last count, I think, resigned from the Government, of which I, after a lot of deliberation and months of standing by the PM, was one of them.”
Asked earlier this month whether Mr Pincher should remain an MP, a spokesperson for Mr Sunak’s campaign said: “We need to let the independent investigation conclude. It’s right that Chris Pincher has had the whip removed and cannot attend Parliament.”
In his resignation letter as chancellor, Mr Sunak said last month that “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”, adding: “I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”
He also outlined that ahead of a planned speech on the economy, it was clear he and Mr Johnson’s approaches were “fundamentally too different”.
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