Boris Johnson: Rishi Sunak is 'talking rubbish' over resignation honours list

Rishi Sunak defends himself against claims from Boris Johnson that he intervened in his resignation honours list, as ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston reports

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 Mr Sunak hit back at Mr Johnson at a Q&A session on Monday, in which he said Mr Johnson "asked me to do something I wasn't prepared to do".

In a statement released hours later, Mr 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 Mr 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, Mr 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."

Mr 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.

Ms Dorries, ex minister, Mr Adams, and Cop26 president Alok Sharma, were all reportedly put forward by Mr Johnson for peerages.

Ms Dorries and Mr Adams resigned as MPs after they failed to appear on the list.

Ms Dorries said she only learned she had not made the resignation honours list half an hour before it was published and said she is “absolutely certain” Mr Johnson did not take her off it.

'I was asked to do something I wasn't prepared to do', insists Rishi Sunak

The former culture secretary said on Monday she had been "bullied" by No 10 and denied "knifing the party" by triggering a by-election in her constituency."

She told TalkTV: "I think you come to a point in life when you have to stop, when you can't just be pushed around, when you can't allow people to bully you, as I've just been bullied by No 10. You can't allow that to happen, you have to stand up for yourself, and that's what I did."

Ms Dorries added: "It was a painful decision ... I didn't want to cause a by-election."

Downing Street took the rare decision on Saturday to declassify Holac chairman Lord Bew's approved names to Mr Sunak, in a bid to prove Mr Johnson's allegations wrong.

The letter, dated 5 February, contained 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 Mr Johnson.

Boris Johnson resigned as an MP after accusing a Commons investigation of attempting to ‘drive me out’ Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

Meanwhile, Mr 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, Mr Johnson likened it to a "kangaroo court" and accused the group of conducting a "witch hunt" to get him out of Parliament.

Senior minister, Penny Mordaunt, appeared to rebuke Mr Johnson's comments, defending the integrity of the committee.

She said: "We have to be really strong about people who are attacking institutions, people who are attacking the House for carrying out its work, people who are attacking the media."

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 Mr 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.

Mr Johnson accused the committee of "bias", with them responding that Mr Johnson "impugned the integrity of the House" with his attack.

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