Dominic Raab Doesn't Rule Out Threats Were Made To Tory MPs In Paterson Row

"I can’t tell you what happened between the whips and individual MPs," the deputy prime minister said.
The justice secretary said spending decisions were not affected by the votes of individual MPs but was unable to rule out reports that the threats were made.
The justice secretary said spending decisions were not affected by the votes of individual MPs but was unable to rule out reports that the threats were made.
Leon Neal via Getty Images

Dominic Raab has not denied that threats may have been made to revoke the constituency funding of Tory MPs who were minded to rebel against the government in the Owen Paterson lobbying row.

The deputy prime minister and justice secretary said spending decisions were not affected by the votes of individual MPs but was unable to rule out reports that the threats were made.

He told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: “I’m not in the whips’ office, but I can tell you that government decisions on where investment is made [is] not to take in those political considerations. They’re taken with very clear processes that are followed.”

Raab added: “I’m not privy to those conversations, because I’m not in the whips’ office.”

And asked whether such threats could therefore have occurred, he answered: “Well, I can’t tell you what happened between the whips and individual MPs, what I can tell you is that there are no government decisions on investment across the country, that would have political influence beyond the correct official criteria, processes, procedures to make sure that money goes where it’s needed most and where it’s required.”

Earlier in the day Labour called on levelling up secretary Michael Gove to “come clean” about whether the conversations had taken place.

Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said there was “growing concern that ministers are misusing their power and potentially breaching the ministerial code of conduct” by coercing MPs with threats to withdraw constituency funding.

“That is a severely damaging approach for the government to be taking,” he said.

“And what we’re calling on Michael Gove today to do – the secretary of state for levelling up – is to come clean about all conversations between ministers and MPs about the proposed bids, whether that’s the towns fund, the levelling up fund or other regeneration funds, but also to be clear about what the selection criteria are for funding so that it’s no longer possible, if that was published, for ministers to corruptly seek to influence decisions in order to coerce MPs.”

The government has come under intense criticism following the row over former Cabinet minister Paterson, who had been found guilty by a Westminster sleaze watchdog of an “egregious” breach of the rules by lobbying ministers on behalf of companies he worked for alongside his job as an MP.

The government sought to protect him from a 30-day suspension by finding flaws in the system that found him guilty, including the lack of an appeal.

To the ire of the Conservative benches, it held and won a vote in the Commons that sought to block the suspension and rip up the current system for policing MPs behaviour, effectively allowing Paterson to escape without punishment.

But Downing Street later abandoned its support for Paterson and for changing the standards system following an intense public backlash.

Paterson then chose to quit parliament rather than face a second vote on being suspended.