A Tory MP has come under fire over an extraordinary claim that the Commons sleaze watchdog is seeking a peerage in return for letting corrupt MPs off the hook.
Conservative Andrew Bridgen challenged Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone over the matter in an email.
The Leicestershire North West MP told Ms Stone two weeks ago he was “distressed” to have heard there were “advanced plans” to ennoble her for reaching “the right outcomes” in political corruption inquiries.
Mr Bridgen added he had been told she could get the honour in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list, due to be announced soon.
He freely admitted the allegation was “unsubstantiated” and that she may regard it as “offensive” – before pressing her to deny it.
Mr Bridgen who is currently being investigated by Ms Stone over allegations that he broke Commons lobbying rules, confirmed to The Independent that he had sent the email.
He said stood by it – and made a fresh series of provocative comments.
“I was told she had been putting it about, looking for an honour,” he told this newspaper. “She didn’t deny it and merely said she always acts impartially.”
He said the fact that Ms Stone’s five-year contract as Standards Commissioner ends shortly “means she is even more open to corruption than she was”.
There is no suggestion that there is any truth in the allegations.
Ms Stone has been praised by campaigners for a series of hard-hitting sleaze investigations into MPs, including Mr Johnson himself – though it has made her unpopular with some MPs.
Mr Bridgen’s email, which has also been sent to MPs on the Commons Parliamentary Standards Committee, said: “I was distressed to hear on a number of occasions an unsubstantiated rumour that there are advanced plans to offer you a peerage, potentially as soon as the PM’s resignation honours list.
“There are suggestions among MPs that those plans are dependent upon arriving at the “right” outcomes when conducting parliamentary standards investigations.”
Mr Bridgen said he was “concerned to hear such rumours” observing “no doubt they were designed to harm your reputation.”
After praising Ms Stone’s integrity, he said: “I apologise if you find the contents of this letter offensive. But I would be grateful if you would reassure me that you are not about to be offered an honour or peerage.”
Ms Stone is currently investigating a claim that Mr Bridgen broke Commons rules concerning paid advocacy by MPs by lobbying ministers on behalf of Mere Plantations, a forestry company. He refers to the dispute at the top of his email to Ms Stone. Mr Bridgen denies breaking any Commons rules.
He indicated to the Independent that his email is partly in protest at the way he believes Ms Stone has performed her job.
“I was very polite and was only treating her like she treats MPs,” he told The Independent. “She starts from the position that everyone is corrupt except her.”
Ms Stone is not involved in a separate investigation by the Commons Privileges Committee into whether Mr Johnson lied to Parliament over ‘Partygate.’
An MP who is aware of the contents of Mr Bridgen’s letter said: “It is an outrageous way to treat a respected public servant.”
A spokesman for Ms Stone declined to comment.
Mr Bridgen’s email in full:
Re Mere Plantations.
Dear Ms Stone:
I was distressed to hear on a number of occasions an unsubstantiated rumour that your contract is due to end and that there are advanced plans to offer you a peerage, potentially as soon as the PM’s resignation honours list.
There are also suggestions among MPs that those plans are dependent upon arriving at the “right” outcomes when conducting parliamentary standards investigations.
A small part of me is concerned to hear such rumours. You are rightfully renowned for your integrity and decency and no doubt such rumours are designed to harm your reputation.
I apologise if you find the contents of this letter offensive – that is not my intention. But I would be grateful if you would reassure me that you are not about to be offered an honour or peerage and that the rumours are malicious and baseless.