James Cleverly attends the Global Investment Summit at Hampton Court Palace in south west London today.
James Cleverly has denied calling a northern English town “a shithole” and insisted he was actually insulting its local Labour MP.
In his first public comments since the row broke last week, the home secretary declared: “I know what I said.”
Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham accused Cleverly of making the derogatory remark about his constituency during prime minister’s questions last Wednesday.
He had just asked Rishi Sunak why 34% of children in his area were living in poverty.
Cunningham and other Labour MPs said they heard Cleverly, who was sitting on the government frontbench, mutter “it’s a shithole”.
An audio recording also appeared to pick up a male voice saying that word, but despite sources close to the minister initially insisting he said nothing, they later said he had actually called Cunningham “a shit MP”.
In the Commons today, Cleverly said: “For the avoidance of doubt [Alex Cunningham] accused me of making derogatory remarks about his constituency. My response was that I did not, would not and would never make such comments about his constituency.
“What I said was a comment about him. My apology was for using unparliamentary language.”
He added: “I know what I said. I will not accept that it was a criticism of his constituency because it was not.”
In response, Cunningham said: “I don’t require any apology for an insult against me because it didn’t happen.
“He has not apologised to me, he has not apologised to the people of my constituency, he has apologised for using unparliamentary language.”