Prime minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday said he regretted appointing Sir Gavin Williamson as a minister, and that he was not aware of specific bullying allegations relating to the former cabinet member.
Williamson, who was appointed minister without portfolio last month, resigned on Tuesday after a flurry of stories regarding his conduct. The MP for South Staffordshire is facing an inquiry by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme and a probe by Downing Street amid allegations that he told a senior civil servant to “slit your throat” and sent threatening text messages to former chief whip Wendy Morton.
Speaking at prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described Williamson as a “pathetic bully” who had been enabled by the prime minister, and asked Sunak whether he regretted the appointment.
In response, Sunak said: “Unequivocally, the behaviour complained of was unacceptable and it is absolutely right, it is absolutely right, that the right honourable gentleman has resigned.”
He added: “For the record, I did not know about any of the specific concerns relating to his conduct as secretary of state or chief whip, which date back some years.”
The prime minister said people in public life “should treat others with consideration and respect”, principles that his government would abide by.
He added: “I obviously regret appointing someone who has had to resign in these circumstances, but I think what the British people would like to know is when situations like this arise, that they will be dealt with properly.”
In his resignation letter on Tuesday, Williamson said he was resigning “so that I can comply fully with the complaints process that is underway and clear my name of any wrongdoing.”