Alun Cairns has quit as Welsh secretary after being accused of “brazenly lying” about his knowledge of an allegation that a Tory candidate had sabotaged a rape trial.
The Cabinet minister has claimed he was unaware of former staff member Ross England’s role in the collapsed trial until after the story broke last week.
In a letter of resignation to the prime minister, Mr Cairns said he was “confident” he would be cleared of any wrongdoing.
His move follows BBC Wales’ revelation that it had obtained a leaked email sent to Mr Cairns that showed he had been made aware of the allegations as early as August last year.
The email, dated 2 August, 2018, was sent to Mr Cairns by Geraint Evans, his special adviser, and was also copied to Richard Minshull, director of the Welsh Conservatives.
It said: “I have spoken to Ross and he is confident no action will be taken by the court.”
Four months later, Mr England was selected as the Welsh Conservatives’ candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan for the 2021 Welsh Assembly election.
Christina Rees MP, shadow secretary of state for Wales, accused Mr Cairns of “brazenly lying” about his knowledge of the allegation, and called on him to resign.
She said: “There are no two ways about this – Alun Cairns has been caught brazenly lying about how much he knew of Ross England’s appalling behaviour at a rape trial.
“The secretary of state, special advisers and senior Welsh Tory officials knew what had happened. They chose to select Ross England anyway – and to mislead and obfuscate when found out.
“The decision is an error of judgment – the cover-up is unforgivable. Alun Cairns should go, as secretary of state and as a candidate.”
The allegation relates to the April 2018 trial of Mr England’s friend James Hackett, who was later found guilty of rape after proceedings were restarted.