May by­passed vet­ting to knight Euroscep­tic

The Sunday Telegraph - - Brexit Turmoil - By Ed­ward Mal­nick SUN­DAY PO­LIT­I­CAL EDITOR

THERESA MAY cir­cum­vented an of­fi­cial vet­ting process in or­der to award a knight­hood to a Tory Euroscep­tic who had in­di­cated he could rebel against her Brexit plans, The Sun­day Tele­graph can dis­close.

This news­pa­per un­der­stands that the Prime Min­is­ter by­passed White­hall’s po­lit­i­cal ser­vice com­mit­tee in or­der to award the hon­our to John Hayes. One se­nior Tory de­scribed the move as “se­ri­ously scan­dalous”.

Yes­ter­day at least one mem­ber of the nine-strong com­mit­tee pri­vately sought an in­quiry about the way in which the hon­our was awarded. Their in­ter­ven­tion came after Mrs May was ac­cused of us­ing the knight­hood in an at­tempt to try and shore up sup­port for her Brexit deal, which looks al­most cer­tain to be de­feated in the Com­mons.

In a sign of Euroscep­tic anger about the hon­our, Mark Fran­cois, the vicechair­man of the Euro­pean Re­search Group of back­benchers, wrote an open let­ter to the MP ex­press­ing faux con­grat­u­la­tions and sug­gest­ing he cre­ate a heraldic crest fea­tur­ing an “ut­ter cock ram­pant on one side and a big chicken on the other”.

Last night Sir Bernard Jenkin, the chair­man of the pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion com­mit­tee, said: “I am re­frain­ing from any com­ment or judg­ment about this mat­ter as one mem­ber of the com­mit­tee has al­ready in­di­cated that he will ask the com­mit­tee to look into this mat­ter.”

An­other se­nior Con­ser­va­tive said: “All po­lit­i­cal hon­ours should now be go­ing through the vet­ting process, and the New Year’s hon­ours list was only six weeks away. It looks like a very cack-handed way of try­ing to in­flu­ence him.” Eight days be­fore the hon­our was awarded, Sir John was seen en­ter­ing No 10 fol­low­ing the Prime Min­is­ter’s state­ment set­ting out the With­drawal Agree­ment – which many of Sir John’s Euroscep­tic col­leagues have said they will vote against. A source vis­it­ing Down­ing Street at the time said the MP came out of a meet­ing look­ing “happy”.

On Fri­day he told The Tele­graph: “This has no bear­ing on how I will vote. I still need a lot of per­suad­ing to vote for this. I have ques­tions still to be an­swered about the deal. The Prime Min­is­ter is aware of that.” A Govern­ment spokesman said: “Full pro­bity checks were un­der­taken in the nor­mal way.”

John Hayes was seen en­ter­ing No 10 eight days be­fore hon­our awarded, and was said to have left look­ing ‘happy’

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