Boris Johnson has defied an independent commission to hand a peerage to a Tory donor and Vote Leave board member who was caught in a “cash-for-access” scandal nearly a decade ago.
The prime minister nominated Peter Cruddas for a seat in the House of Lords, despite past accusations that he had offered access to David Cameron in exchange for party donations. He denied this claim, but the Court of Appeal found it to be true following a defamation case.
Cruddas was one of 16 appointments to the Lords – including seven recommendations from Johnson, five from Keir Starmer and five crossbench nominations.
This list will bring the total in the House of Lords to over 830 – almost 200 more than the House of Commons.
The scale of the nominations list sparked criticism from Lord Speaker Lord Fowler, who said he had a “fundamental concern” about “the number of new peers that have been appointed by the prime minister in his first 12 months in office” and called for a review of the powers of the appointments commission.
But Fowler did welcome the elevation of former Archbishop of York John Sentamu to the Lords, who was reportedly snubbed by Downing Street for an automatic life peerage because Johnson wanted to scale back on numbers in the Lords.
Johnson’s decision to nominate Cruddas came in defiance of the recommendation of the Lords appointment commission, which said it could not support Cruddas’s nomination due to a Sunday Times story revealing the allegations in 2012.
Parliamentary records show Cruddas donated £50,000 to the PM in June 2019, when Johnson was embarking on his campaign to replace Theresa May as Tory leader and in Downing Street.
Cruddas has also recently made several donations to Tory MPs.
In 2012, Sunday Times reporters went undercover to film Cruddas explaining how donations to the Tory Party could secure access to politicians and influence over policy making.
Cruddas denied allegations he was offering access to leading politicians like then-PM Cameron in return for cash for the party.
But in a 2015 libel case, the Court of Appeal found the allegation to be true and branded Cruddas’s behaviour “unacceptable, inappropriate and wrong”.
“Cruddas was effectively saying to the journalists that if they donated large sums to the Conservative Party, they would have an opportunity to influence government policy and to gain unfair commercial advantage through confidential meetings with the prime minister and other senior ministers,” the judgment said.
Commenting on Cruddas’s appointment, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “From Dominic Cummings’s eye test to handing out contracts to their mates, it’s one rule for the Tories and their chums, another for the rest of us.”
In a letter to Lord Bew, chair of the appointments commission, Johnson justified Cruddas’s nomination by saying the former Tory treasurer had made “outstanding contributions” to charity and business since being caught up in the cash-for-access scandal.
The PM also insisted an internal Tory investigation “found that there had been no intentional wrongdoing” on the part of Cruddas, who was born in Hackney.
Johnson went on: “Cruddas was born without the advantages of many of those in the House of Lords and has gone on to become one of the country’s most successful business figures.
“His broad range of experiences and insights across the charitable, business and political sectors will, in my view, allow him to make a hugely valuable contribution.”
Here is a full list of the peerages approved by the Queen on Tuesday:
Boris Johnson’s nominations:
- Sir Richard Benyon – former Tory minister and MP for Newbury.
- Peter Cruddas.
- Dame Jacqueline Foster – formerly deputy leader of the Conservative Party in the European Parliament
- Stephanie Fraser – chief executive of Cerebral Palsy Scotland.
- Dean Godson – director of Policy Exchange.
- Daniel Hannan – formerly Tory MEP.
- Syed Kamall – formerly leader of the Conservative Party in the European Parliament.
Keir Starmer’s nominations:
- Judith Blake – leader of Leeds City Council.
- Jenny Chapman – close ally and former Labour MP.
- Vernon Coaker – former minister and Labour MP.
- Wajid Khan – former Labour MEP.
- Gillian Merron – chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, former minister and former Labour MP.
Nominations for Crossbench Peerages:
- Sir Terence Etherton – former master of the rolls and head of civil justice.
- Sir Simon McDonald – former top Foreign Office official and head of the Diplomatic Service.
- Sir Andrew Parker – former director-general of MI5.
- John Sentamu – former Archbishop of York.