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Sunak did not remove names from Johnson’s peerages list, insists minister

Allies of the former prime minister claim there was unhappiness with some of those nominated.

Neither the Prime Minister nor members of his Number 10 team removed names from Boris Johnson’s peerages submission, according to a senior Government minister.

Several reports have suggested Mr Johnson’s allies blame Downing Street for Conservative MPs failing to appear on his resignation honours list on Friday despite them being nominated for the House of Lords.

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries, ex-minister Nigel Adams and Cop26 President Sir Alok Sharma were reportedly put forward by Mr Johnson for peerages.

Ms Dorries and Mr Adams have resigned as MPs since being omitted, giving Rishi Sunak the headache of three separate by-elections, with Mr Johnson also dramatically quitting over complaints about a Commons partygate inquiry.

Guto Harri, a former No 10 communications director who was made a CBE in Mr Johnson’s outgoing awards, told Sky News the “relevant authorities” were “not happy with the scale” of the resignation roll and “some of the nominations originally”.

Grant Shapps
Grant Shapps said neither the Prime Minister nor his No 10 aides interfered in the process (Jeff Moore/PA)

But Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps said Downing Street did not interfere with who was recommended for peerages.

He said the Lords vetting watchdog would have had to publicly declare if Mr Sunak had struck off proposed candidates.

Asked whether reports that Mr Sunak or his aides removed names are true, Mr Shapps told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “No. The list that came to him was the list that went to the House of Lords Appointments Committee (Holac) that looks at these things.

“Just to be clear here, it went to that committee. The committee would have to say if the Prime Minister removed anyone.

“The Prime Minister has exactly followed the very long-standing conventions of prime ministers who simply take the list and pass it on and receive it back.”

Pressed on whether a member of the Prime Minister’s team removed names “months ago” before it arrived with Mr Sunak, the Cabinet minister said: “My understanding is no. As far as I’m aware, that is not true.”

Mr Sunak’s press secretary has said the Prime Minister forwarded his predecessor’s list to the Holac vetting process, which then passed back the approved list.

The Prime Minister then accepted the commission’s approved list and “forwarded it unamended to the Sovereign for their approval”, she said.

When asked by the PA news agency whether Mr Johnson’s original submission contained names that do not feature in the Holac-approved document sent to the King, No 10 said the list remained confidential.

Downing Street took the decision on Saturday to declassify Holac chairman Lord Bew’s approved names to Mr Sunak.

The letter, dated February 5, contains the seven peerages announced on Friday, along with a redacted name of a person who took the “personal decision to withdraw themselves”.

Holac has, according to the Institute for Government think tank, confirmed it rejected eight peerage nominees put forward by Mr Johnson on the grounds of propriety.

Downing Street turmoil
Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries quit the Commons shortly before Boris Johnson’s resignation honours was published (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

There has been a suggestion that Holac would not approve peerages for MPs unless they were due to stand down immediately or were prepared to do so within six months.

No 10 has confirmed a meeting between Mr Sunak and Mr Johnson took place on June 2, where the subject of his pending honours tally was mentioned.

According to The Sunday Times, the pair spoke in the Prime Minister’s House of Commons office for about 45 minutes, with the first half of the meeting spent talking about a strategy to “take the fight” to Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.

A source close to Mr Sunak said: “When the Prime Minister met with the former prime minister recently, the former prime minister raised the matter of peerages with him, to which the current Prime Minister made clear he would follow precedent and not interfere with the process.

“Any suggestions of promises made or guarantees given are categorically untrue.”

When Mr Johnson noted his nominations could trigger by-election contests, a source familiar with the conversation told PA that Mr Sunak replied with words to the effect of “so be it”.

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