The government is “seeking further” legal advice over messages allegedly sent by Nadine Dorries to civil servants promising to get to the bottom of why she was not granted a peerage, the cabinet secretary said today.
Simon Case, who is the UK’s top civil servant, this morning attended a hearing of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), chaired by Conservative MP William Wragg, who questioned him over Ms Dorries’ alleged conduct.
Mr Wragg asked Mr Case: “Are you aware of any forceful communications, it might be described, sent by the lingering member for mid Bedfordshire to senior civil servants?”.
The PACAC chair added that such messages could be described as “threatening”, claiming the former culture secretary promised “to use the platform of the commons and, indeed, her own television programme to get to the bottom of why she hadn’t been given a peerage”.
The cabinet secretary responded that he was aware of such communications and that he had flagged the messages “to both the chief whip and the Speaker of the House”.
Last month, Ms Dorries said she would resign from parliament after it emerged that her nomination for a peerage, put forward by Boris Johnson in his resignation honours list, had been stopped by the Lords appointments watchdog.
However, she later said she would stay in the House of Commons as an MP until she had conducted an investigation over why her peerage was vetoed.
Downing Street then took the unusual step of declassifying the list of Boris Johnson’s proposed peers, which was approved by the House of Lords Appointments Commission (HOLAC). It was a bid to prove that the prime minister had not selectively removed Ms Dorries, alongside other key Johnson allies Alok Sharma and Nigel Adams, from the list.
Pressed further by Mr Wragg on whether the government had sought “legal advice on the matter”, Mr Case responded by saying: “… seeking further advice on that question. So taken initial advice but asked for more”.
Mr Wragg was referring specifically to whether Ms Dorries had breached the Honours (Prevention of Abuse) act 1925.
Asked about the claims, Ms Dorries has told the i newspaper that the only civil servant she had contacted was Mr Case, apart from sending a series of Freedom of Information Act requests about her blocked peerage.