Peter Cruddas: PM overrules watchdog with Tory donor peerage

By Justin Parkinson
Political reporter, BBC News

Image caption,
Peter Cruddas won a libel case against the Sunday Times in 2013

Boris Johnson has nominated businessman Peter Cruddas for a peerage, despite his rejection by the honours watchdog.

The Lords Appointments Commission did not support ennobling the businessman, who quit as Tory co-treasurer in 2012 following cash-for-access allegations.

Mr Cruddas later won a libel case against a newspaper over its claims.

Mr Johnson rejected the commission's recommendation, becoming the first PM to ignore its advice on a nomination since it was set up in 2000.

Labour accused Mr Johnson - who received £50,000 from Mr Cruddas for his campaign to become Conservative leader in 2019 - of "cronyism".

Former Archbishop of York John Sentamu and ex-MI5 boss Sir Andrew Parker are also among those given peerages in the political honours list.

'Historic concerns'

Mr Cruddas, who has donated more than £3m to the Conservatives since 2007, resigned as party co-treasurer in 2012 after a newspaper story suggested he was offering access to then Prime Minister David Cameron for a donation of £250,000 a year.

But the following year he won £180,000 in damages in a libel victory against the Sunday Times, which had published the claims. The damages were later reduced to £50,000 on appeal.

In a letter to the Lords appointment commission, Mr Johnson said its rejection of Mr Cruddas's nomination for a peerage related "to historic concerns in respect of allegations" made during his time as co-treasurer.

But he added that these had been found to be "untrue and libellous" and that an internal Conservative Party investigation had discovered "no intentional wrongdoing" on Mr Cruddas's part.

Mr Johnson also said the committee had found "no suggestion of any matters of concern" before or since the 2012 allegations.

Image caption,
Former Archbishop of York John Sentamu is among those honoured

Mr Cruddas, the founder of financial services company CMC Markets and a prominent Brexit supporter, had a "long track record of committed political service" and was one of the UK's "most successful business figures", the prime minister argued.

'Massive U-turn'

The commission provides advice but appointments to the Lords are ultimately a decision for the prime minister.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "After months of revelations about the cronyism at the heart of this government, it's somehow appropriate the prime minister has chosen to end the year with a peerage to Peter Cruddas."

She added that there was "one rule for the Conservatives and their chums, another for the rest of the country".

Former environment minister Sir Richard Benyon; former MEPs Dame Jacqueline Foster, Syed Kamall and Daniel Hannan; Cerebral Palsy Scotland chief executive Stephanie Fraser; and Dean Godson, director of the Policy Exchange think tank, have also been nominated for Conservative seats in the Lords.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer chose Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake; former MPs Vernon Coaker and Jennifer Chapman, who chaired his Labour leadership campaign; former MEP Wajid Khan; and Gillian Merron, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and a former Labour MP.

As well as Mr Sentamu and Sir Andrew, the nominations for crossbench - non-party - peerages are former judge Sir Terence Etherton and Sir Simon McDonald, former permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office.

The Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, criticised the number of new peers, which will bring the total membership of the House of Lords to more than 830, accusing Mr Johnson of a "massive U-turn" on his predecessor Theresa May's policy of reducing it in size.

It added "insult to injury" that the appointments had been announced while Parliament was in recess, he said.

"It may also now be the time to review the role and the powers of the House of Lords Appointments Commission," Lord Fowler added.