Good Law Project and Pete Wishart MP have threatened legal proceedings against the Metropolitan Police over its failure to investigate the Tory ‘Cash for Peerages’ scandal.
On 6 November, The Sunday Times and Open Democracy revealed that 15 of the last 16 Conservative Party treasurers have been offered a seat in the House of Lords, having each donated more than £3m to the party.
The Conservative Party has been accused of “corruption” and the Sunday Times quoted a former chairman that “the truth is the entire political establishment knows this happens and they do nothing about it.
In total 22 of the party’s main financial backers have been given peerages since 2010. This includes nine donor treasurers. Together they have given an estimated £54m to the party.
But the Met Police has so far refused to investigate, saying “there is insufficient information upon which to launch a criminal investigation” in a letter to Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire, who originally reported the trend to them.
Buying or selling honours is a crime.
In March 2006, Scottish National Party MP Angus McNeil brought a complaint to the police after it emerged that four wealthy businessmen, who had lent the Labour Party a total of £5m, were nominated by Tony Blair for peerages.
The police questioned a raft of politicians over the scandal and made several arrests.
Good Law Project and Pete Wishart MP’s pre action protocol letter to the Metropolitan Police asks the Met share the information and documents they considered before refusing to investigate; any other correspondence or actions taken by the Met in response to Mr Wishart’s referral; and the internal record of the refusal.
The Met must begin a criminal investigation over the scandal. If it refuses, it must explain why, or risk judicial review.
Jo Maugham, director of Good Law Project, said, “At the heart of the legal action is a simple ask: that Boris Johnson be subject to the same law as you and me. And if there’s reason to think he has broken it he gets investigated by the police, just like you and I would.”
Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire added, “The very idea that a place in the House of Lords can be bought for £3m is something that appalls the people of this country and there is an expectation that this should rightly be investigated.
“Practically all recent treasurers of the Conservative party have been given a place in our legislature, and the only qualification they seem to possess is an ability to gift millions of pounds to Conservative coffers.
“For more than two weeks, Westminster politics has been taken to the gutter with multiple allegations of sleaze and corruption.
“It is high time that, where there is clear evidence, the authorities properly consider it and investigate.”
However the “cash for honours” has been defended by the Environment Secretary as he said their expertise makes them “valuable” as they have been “successful in business.”
George Eustice said, “They are philanthropists who give huge amounts to charity, who have been very successful in business and, therefore, on those grounds ought to be considered for the Lords.”