May bypassed vetting to knight Eurosceptic
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’