Boris Johnson failed to remember he had been told that Chris Pincher was the subject of a official complaint about his conduct, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman confirmed that Mr Johnson was briefed on the complaint by officials at the Foreign Office in 2019, a “number of months” after it took place.

The spokesman said the complaint against Mr Pincher – who was Europe minister at the time – was upheld although it did not lead to formal disciplinary action.

Chris Pincher Chris Pincher (Aaron Chown/PA)

No 10 had previously claimed Mr Johnson had not been aware of any “specific allegations”, after Mr Pincher’s dramatic resignation last week as deputy chief whip following claims he groped two men at a private members’ club.

“At the time last week that was the Prime Minister’s view. You will appreciate it takes some time to establish he was briefed, albeit we don’t think in formal briefing on this,” the spokesman said.

“This dates back a number of years. On Friday, it was our belief that he was not informed about that specific incident.”

The admission came after the former top civil servant at the Foreign Office, Lord McDonald, said the original No 10 account was “not true” and the Prime Minister had been briefed “in person”.

In the Commons, responding to a Labour urgent question, Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis told MPs: “The Prime Minister was made aware of this issue in late 2019, he was told that the permanent secretary had taken the necessary action, no issue therefore arose about (Mr Pincher) remaining as a minister.

“Last week, when fresh allegations arose, the Prime Minister did not immediately recall the conversation in late 2019 about this incident. As soon as he was reminded, the No 10 press office corrected their public lines.”