Dominic Raab has described allegations that his diary secretary met men though a “sugar daddy” website as “a storm in a teacup”.
Mr Raab said his first concern was for the welfare of the young aide who was in a “vulnerable position” following the publication of the story in the Daily Mirror.
Last week the paper reported that the woman, who has since been suspended, boasted of knowing “everything” about Mr Raab whilst meeting an undercover journalist posing as a wealthy businessman, including at a five-star hotel less than a mile from the House of Commons.
The reports sparked discussion about what Mr Raab had for lunch.
The housing minister also described reports that staff in his department were not supportive of him and toasted his departure for the Easter holidays as “just nonsense”.
Speaking to Anna Foster on BBC Radio 5 Live, he said: “To be honest, the first thing I thought was this is a 20-year-old young woman caught in a media storm, and my initial concern was just to make sure that someone in a vulnerable position like that was properly looked after by us as the department, and me as the minister for state. And that’s something the Civil Service and I and my officials agreed on.
“Obviously this was a sting on me by the Daily Mirror with a substantial sum of money that went into it, and it seemed the most salacious thing that was disclosed was what I had for lunch.
“I feel a bit of a letdown to the rich tradition of political peccadilloes that we have in this country. But actually, at the end of the day, a storm in a tea cup. It’s fish and chip paper wrapping the next day.”
Mr Raab dismissed suggestions that staff in his department were critical of him, including that he is dismissive towards women.
“Obviously you’ve got the Daily Mirror’s reporting of it, and allegations, reports of what she said.
“But all I know is that when I came back to the department the next morning, from my private office through to the permanent secretary – the head of my department – it was made very clear that that was nonsense. That not only were those comments not true, but that they were not the widespread opinion in the department.
“And actually that was nice to hear because, yes, of course you go in as a minister wanting to get things done, I’m focused on the job and I do make demands of the department.
“But some of that stuff is just nonsense. And what you want to have is high standards and civil servants and officials who are really keen to meet you halfway, give you robust advice, but also fulfil and execute the direction of travel that you’re setting as a minister.
“And I’m absolutely confident, and so is my permanent secretary, that that’s what we’ve got. So to be honest with you, all of that tittle tattle, it’s for the birds.”