Rishi Sunak defends himself against claims from Boris Johnson that he intervened in his resignation honours list, as Political Correspondents Carl Dinnen and Harry Horton report
Boris Johnson has claimed Rishi Sunak is “talking rubbish” when he says the former prime minister asked him to over-rule the body that vets appointments to the House of Lords.
It comes after Sunak hit back at Johnson at a Q&A session on Monday, in which he said Johnson “asked me to do something I wasn’t prepared to do”.
In a statement released hours later, Johnson said: “Rishi Sunak is talking rubbish. To honour these peerages it was not necessary to overrule Holac (House of Lords Appointment Commission) – but simply to ask them to renew their vetting, which was a mere formality.”
Downing Street has furiously denied the allegation, insisting it is “entirely untrue” that Sunak, or anyone in Number 10, attempted to “remove, change or alter” the resignation honours list of the former prime minister.
Speaking to an audience at the start of London Tech Week, Sunak said he was asked “to either overrule the Holac committee or to make promises to people.
“Now, I wasn’t prepared to do that. I didn’t think it was right and if people don’t like that, then tough.”
Sunak faced the questions after a weekend of political turmoil for the Conservative Party, following resignations by Nadine Dorries, Boris Johnson himself and Nigel Adams, triggering three by-elections, the dates of which are yet to be announced.
‘I was asked to do something I wasn’t prepared to do’, insists Rishi Sunak
The former culture secretary, Dorries, ex minister, Adams, and Cop26 president Alok Sharma, were all reportedly put forward by Johnson for peerages.
Dorries and Adams resigned as MPs after they failed to appear on the list.
Downing Street took the rare decision on Saturday to declassify Holac chairman Lord Bew’s approved names to Sunak, in a bid to prove Johnson’s allegations wrong.
The letter, dated 5 February, contains the seven peerages announced on Friday, along with a redacted name of a person who took the “personal decision to withdraw themselves”.
Holac confirmed it did not support eight peerage nominees put forward by Johnson.
Meanwhile, Johnson quit on Friday over complaints about a Commons partygate inquiry, after he received a letter from the Privileges Committee in the same week as his honours list was published.
In a scathing attack on the Privileges Committee, Johnson likened it to a “kangaroo court” and accused the group of conducting a “witch hunt” to get him out of Parliament.
The panel, chaired by Harriet Harman, met on Monday morning to finalise its report, which ITV News understands is due to be published “promptly”.
The probe is thought to have ruled that Johnson lied to Parliament when he told MPs Covid rules were followed in Downing Street despite parties, including one which told guests to bring their own booze, taking place while social distancing restrictions were in place.
Reports suggest the panel was set to recommend at least a 10-day suspension, reaching the threshold for a by-election to be potentially triggered in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.
Johnson accused the committee of “bias”, with them responding that Johnson
“impugned the integrity of the House” with his attack.