But Labour MP Alex Cunningham refused to accept the apology during an feisty Commons row – insisting that he did not believe Mr Cleverly’s claim to have called him a “s*** MP”.
The Tory home secretary was accused of making the remark after Mr Cunningham challenged Rishi Sunak over the level of child poverty in his Stockton North constituency.
A close ally of Mr Cleverly insisted that he had personally called the MP “s***”, but his swearing had was not directed towards the north east town.
Making an apology in person for the first time on Monday, Mr Cleverly told MPs: “I know what I said. I rejected the accusation that I criticised his constituency.”
He added: “My criticism, which I made from a sedentary position, about the honourable gentleman used inappropriate language for which I apologise. But I will not accept that my criticism was of his constituency because it was not.”
But the attempted apology sparked a further row in the Commons, as Mr Cunningham and some opposition MPs questioned the home secretary’s version of events.
Mr Cunningham said: “It’s extremely sad that the home secretary hasn’t the guts to admit to his appalling remark about my Stockton North constituency … and apologise to the people I have the privilege of representing.”
He accused Mr Cleverly of trying to “minimise the damage to his reputation by claiming his remark was aimed at me”, adding: “It’s untrue and has been shown to be untrue.”
Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing intervened to advise Mr Cunningham to use another word instead of “untrue”, since MPs are not supposed to call each other liars or even suggest as much.
The Labour frontbencher, the shadow courts minister, replied: “You offer me a considerable challenge, but perhaps the home secretary has inadvertently misled people across the country in relation to this particular matter.”
Mr Cunningham accused Mr Cleverly of “talking down” Stockton and urged the Tory frontbencher to apologise for “insulting” the areas rather than “hide behind the half-truths uttered on his behalf”.
Mr Cleverly said he “would never make such comments about his constituency … I will make it absolutely clear, for the avoidance of doubt, with no ambiguity, I did not, would not…”
As an opposition MP shouted “you did”, Mr Cleverly said: “Then what are you calling me, sir?”
At this point Mr Cleverly then said, “I know what I said”, before reiterating he rejected the accusation that he criticised Stockton North.
Mr Cleverly was challenged again from the Labour benches, with Dame Eleanor saying: “This is not a debate and the matter is now closed.”
Mr Cunningham, raising a further point of order, said: “I don’t actually require any apology for an insult against me because it didn’t happen.”
He added: “He has not apologised to me, he’s not apologised to the people of my constituency, he has apologised for using unparliamentary language.”
Dame Eleanor concluded: “[Mr Cleverly] has issued an apology. I require an apology for the use of unparliamentary language and the home secretary has given that apology.”