Chris Pincher, a British MP, was on Friday suspended from the Conservative Party over claims he assaulted two men, including a colleague, while intoxicated.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly spoke to a Conservative MP who was with one of the men attacked by the then-deputy chief whip on Wednesday night and ordered Mr Pincher's suspension.
“The account given was sufficiently disturbing to make the PM feel more troubled by all this,” a source told the PA news agency.
Mr Pincher announced he was resigning as the government’s deputy chief whip on Thursday, saying in a letter to Mr Boris Johnson that he had “embarrassed myself and others”.
He is known as a loyal Conservative and, in his role in the whip’s office, he ensured MPs voted with the party and maintained discipline among party members.
A spokeswoman for Conservative chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris said the decision to suspend Mr Pincher was taken after at least one accuser lodged a report with the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, a parliamentary body that probes allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
“Having heard that a formal complaint has been made to the ICGS, the PM has agreed with the chief whip that the whip should be suspended from Chris Pincher while the investigation is ongoing,” the spokeswoman said.
“We will not prejudge that investigation. We urge colleagues and the media to respect that process.”
The scandal is another blow for the prime minister who has been punished by voters in recent by-elections.
He also had to win a confidence vote, caused primarily by his role in the partygate affair, during which lockdown-breaking parties were held in government offices, including No 10 Downing Street.
“I've embarrassed myself and other people which is the last thing I want to do and for that, I apologise to you and to those concerned,” Mr Pincher said in his resignation letter.
“I think the right thing to do in the circumstances is for me to resign as deputy chief whip. I owe it to you and the people I've caused upset to, to do this.”
He added that he would continue to lend his support from the back bench and wished his fellow party members the best as they continued to deal with rising inflation and the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It has been the honour of my life to have served in her majesty's government,” he said.
He has been MP for Tamworth since 2010 and was a minister under former prime minister Theresa May.
Mr Pincher was appointed alongside chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris last February to strengthen party discipline amid unrest among MPs over the way the government was being run.
It is the second time he has quit the whips' office, having resigned as a junior whip in November 2017 after a complaint that he had made an unwanted pass at former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story.
The opposition Labour party said it showed the government was “mired in scandal” and questioned how he could stay on as a Tory MP.
“This latest episode shows how far standards in public life have been degraded on Boris Johnson's watch,” deputy leader Angela Rayner said.
“Boris Johnson has serious questions to answer about why Chris Pincher was given this role in the first place and how he can remain a Conservative MP.
“The Conservative Party is so mired in sleaze and scandal that it is totally unable to tackle the challenges facing the British people.”
Earlier on Friday, a Cabinet minister hinted that Mr Pincher could be expelled from the Conservative Party by the end of the day.
Speaking to Sky News, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said Mr Heaton-Harris would be having “conversations” throughout the day and that “we might be having a very different conversation as the day goes on”.
“This makes me very sad, it makes me sad for everybody who’s been involved in these things,” Mr Hart said. “It’s clearly something which has gone terribly wrong.
“There is a process, I think it’s important that the process is followed.
“I think it is entirely right that the chief whip and others take a view today about what is the appropriate course of action.
“Of course, if there are those who are victims of this or who wish to raise complaint, they can do so.”
Mr Hart was unable to confirm whether the reported assault was being formally investigated.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said Mr Pincher should have the whip suspended while a full investigation is carried out.
“These allegations are really serious,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “This is about sexual assault.
“So, the idea that the response that we’ve seen that the prime minister thinks he’s done the decent thing by resigning and there’s no need for an investigation, well, that’s a total disgrace.
“The whips' office are responsible for discipline and standards among Conservative MPs. Boris Johnson chose this MP to be deputy chief whip because he was a friend and ally, despite the fact that he had to resign five years ago from the whip’s office due to similar-sounding allegations.”