The whiff of rumours and historic incidents surrounding Chris Pincher should have been enough to tell the Prime Minister that his appointment was not “wise”, a south Essex MP has said.

Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price told the Commons the Government Whips’ Office is meant to be a “safe space for welfare”.

She added: “Notwithstanding what he said about natural justice, the very whiff of rumours and historic incidents that Simon McDonald referred to in his letter today should have been enough to tell the Prime Minister that that appointment wasn’t wise, and he could have made use of the honourable gentleman’s talents in a different department, as he had done previously.”

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Ms Doyle-Price, who served as an assistant government whip from 2015 to 2017, added: “I think we are now on a half a dozen different variations of degrees of honesty with which the knowledge of these events has been addressed by Number 10.

“Can I just say to my honourable gentleman, and I’m very fond of him, I think he has a really sticky wicket to do today, but really the way we move on from this is having a complete reset of standards, a complete reboot of the Ministerial Code.

“Could I ask him what he intends to do to really convey to this House that the provisions of the Ministerial Code are taken seriously by this Government?”

Cabient Office minister Michael Ellis reassured Ms Doyle-Price “the codes of conduct, the codes of practice are adhered to firmly by this Government and supported by this Prime Minister”.

He also said: “It doesn’t necessarily immediately impugn dishonesty if someone doesn’t recall something years after the event. I would ask my honourable friend to bear that very much in mind.”