Downing Street has rejected calls for culture secretary John Whittingdale to step aside from decisions about press regulation after he disclosed that he had a relationship with a sex worker.
Whittingdale, who is single, said he had been unaware of the woman’s occupation and had broken off the relationship after six months in 2014 when he discovered someone was trying to sell the story to the press.
Labour’s shadow culture secretary, Maria Eagle, said it was now essential for Whittingdale to give up his responsibilities for press regulation to ensure there was no perception of “undue influence” in his dealings with newspapers.
A senior Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has got full confidence in John Whittingdale to carry out all of his duties.”
The spokesman confirmed Whittingdale did not inform David Cameron about press interest in his relationship at the time he was appointed to the cabinet after the 2015 general election.
Cameron learned about the relationship only around 11 days ago, when the story emerged on the internet, said the spokesman.
Whittingdale insisted that events had no bearing on any decisions he took in office. “This is an old story which was a bit embarrassing at the time. The events occurred long before I took up my present position and it has never had any influence on the decisions I have made as culture secretary,” he said.
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