Embarrassing claims about the private life of John Whittingdale have been branded “tittle-tattle” by people close to the cabinet minister.
Former topless model Stephanie Hudson claimed the culture secretary had breached security protocols while they were a relationship.
Mr Whittingdale showed her confidential papers at his constituency home and also photographed cabinet ministers at a private meeting in Chequers before secretly texting the image to her, she claimed in a Sunday newspaper.
But sources insisted that Ms Hudson “never had access” to government documents and said the Tory MP was entitled to a private life.
Ms Hudson said: “The red box was open on his breakfast table and all the papers were strewn on the table. He would show me his work schedule and the letters when I would sit next to him.
“He was always saying this important person had been writing to him and he had to respond to so and so.
“I always felt he was trying to show he was important, you know: ‘Look at me, I am big.’ It would have been easy to read the papers either across the kitchen table or when he was out of the room. There was something about Ofcom written on one of them.”
A source close to John Whittingdale said: “John is a single man. He is entitled to a private life. This is just tittle tattle. Stephanie Hudson never had access to government papers. A Downing Street spokesperson did not comment on the image, but said: “John Whittingdale is entitled to a private life.”
Last week, Mr Whittingdale faced calls to step down after it emerged he had been in a six-month relationship with a sex worker that ended in 2013.
Mr Whittingdale, who is divorced, said he had been unaware of the woman’s occupation and had broken off the relationship when he discovered the story was being offered to newspapers.
In a statement at the time, Mr 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.
BBC2’s Newsnight reported that four newspapers – the People, the Mail on Sunday, the Sun and the Independent – had investigated the claims at the time but concluded it was not a public interest story.
Although the relationship occurred before he was made a minister, it occurred at a time when he was chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, which held a series of hearings on the phone-hacking scandal.
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Maria Eagle said: “Everyone is entitled to a private life. However, these revelations raise serious questions about why the secretary of state has reneged on the government’s promise to deliver the cross-party agreement on Leveson when this is something he was previously committed to as chair of the culture, media and sport select committee.”