UK Politics

Damian Green says computer porn allegations are 'political smears'

Damian Green Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Damian Green said the allegations were from a "tainted and untrustworthy source"

Theresa May's most senior minister has denied a claim that police found pornography on a computer in his office during a raid in 2008.

First Secretary of State Damian Green said ex-police chief Bob Quick's claims in the Sunday Times were "completely untrue" and "political smears".

And he said police had never told him that any improper material had been found on a parliamentary computer.

Mr Quick said he "stood" by the claim and would take part in an inquiry.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Chris Pincher has resigned as a government whip and referred himself to police following newspaper allegations about his conduct made by a party activist.

The revelations are the latest in a growing sexual misconduct scandal in Westminster.

Image copyright Conservative Party
Image caption Chris Pincher is the MP for Tamworth in Staffordshire

On Sunday, further details emerged about allegations against Sir Michael Fallon, who this week resigned as defence secretary over his behaviour.

The Observer reported that he quit shortly after journalist Jane Merrick told Downing Street he had lunged at her and attempted to kiss her on the lips in 2003 after they had lunch together.

And Tory MPs Daniel Poulter, Stephen Crabb and Daniel Kawczynski have been referred to the Conservative Party disciplinary committee after media allegations about their conduct.

The allegation regarding Mr Green, who is effectively the prime minister's deputy, relates to an inquiry into Home Office leaks which briefly led to his arrest in 2008.

Image copyright Conservative Party/PA
Image caption Daniel Poulter, Stephen Crabb and Daniel Kawczynski have faced questions about their professional conduct

Former Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick said on Sunday that his officers had found pornographic material on a computer in Mr Green's Commons office after they searched it as part of their controversial investigation - which resulted in no charges.

The ex-anti-terror chief said he had made an appointment to speak to a senior official in the Cabinet Office, which last week launched an inquiry into an unrelated allegation against Mr Green, to discuss the matter.

"I bear no malice to Damian Green," he told BBC News.

Mr Quick, who quit his role in 2009 after inadvertently revealing secret documents, accepted he had not asked officers to report the matter at the time, saying they "didn't expect to find the material" and were in the midst of a "very difficult inquiry with a lot of pressure to drop the case".

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Media captionAndrew Marr asked Home Secretary Amber Rudd whether the centre of government was close to collapse

But Mr Green said "the allegations about the material and computer, now nine years old, are false, disreputable political smears", adding that they "amount to little more than an unscrupulous character assassination".

The Cabinet Office inquiry was triggered after journalist Kate Maltby, who is three decades younger than Mr Green, told the Times he "fleetingly" touched her knee during a meeting in a pub in 2015 and a year later sent her a "suggestive" text message after she was pictured wearing a corset in the newspaper.

Mr Green said any allegation that he made sexual advances to Ms Maltby was "untrue (and) deeply hurtful".

Two Tory MPs, Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen, have urged Mr Green to step aside pending the outcome of the investigation but Home Secretary Amber Rudd said her cabinet colleague had the right to defend himself.

"I do think that we shouldn't rush to allege anything until that inquiry has taken place," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr.

More generally, she said abuse of power could not be tolerated and there needed to be a "clearing out" of Westminster to get rid of any such behaviour.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Anna Soubry has said former Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon was "responsible for his own downfall" amid fresh claims about his past behaviour.

Ms Merrick told the Observer she "shrank away in horror" when Sir Michael tried to kiss her when she was a 29-year-old reporter at the Daily Mail.

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn says there must be change following recent revelations of sexual harassment

"I felt humiliated, ashamed. Was I even guilty that maybe I had led him on in some way by drinking with him?" she said. "After years of having a drink with so many other MPs who have not acted inappropriately towards me, I now know I was not."

Friends of Sir Michael have not denied the allegation, but the BBC understands that his ministerial career ended because he could not guarantee there would be no further revelations after he admitted repeatedly touching another journalist's knee at a conference dinner 15 years ago.

Ms Soubry praised the journalist's "outstanding bravery" in coming forward and said she had put her in touch with Downing Street after Ms Merrick had confided in her and Labour's Harriet Harman.

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Media captionJane Merrick "outstandingly brave" for speaking out about Sir Michael Fallon - Conservative MP Anna Soubry

Theresa May, she added, must ensure an independent complaints system immediately so victims of harassment and those accused of misconduct did not have to undergo "trial by newspapers".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said this must be a "turning point" for how the whole political class behaves, telling activists that his party - under fire for how it has handled harassment and rape allegations - was not afraid to "shine a spotlight" on itself.

"We must say, no more. We must no longer allow women, or anyone else for that matter, to be abused in the workplace or anywhere else," he said.

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