A Better Together donor reportedly nominated for a knighthood in David Cameron’s proposed resignation honours has withdrawn his name from the list amid accusations of cronyism.
Vitol oil boss Ian Taylor has written to Mr Cameron and his successor Theresa May asking that his name does not go forward on the list, which was leaked to the Sunday Times.
Mr Taylor donated £500,000 to the Better Together campaign to reject Scottish independence in the 2013 referendum.
At the time the campaign faced calls to return the money, with then-Scottish first minister Alex Salmond raising concerns about Vitol, which was heavily fined over its role in the Iraq oil for food scandal.
Mr Taylor has also donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Tories in recent years.
Mr Taylor said: “In recent days, speculation in the media has suggested that I may be recognised in the forthcoming resignation honours list. This has been accompanied by seriously inaccurate comments about the company I lead. In these circumstances, I think it is right I request that my name does not go forward, if indeed I was being considered for an honour.
“Tonight, I am writing both to the outgoing and the current Prime Minister requesting that I would not wish to be considered for an honour at this time. I will, of course, be continuing to participate actively in all the causes that I and my family passionately believe in, notably broadening access to the arts for everyone.”
Opposition MPs have demanded a complete overhaul of the honours system after it was claimed Mr Cameron is pushing to reward personal aides, political donors and senior figures on the losing campaign to Remain in the European Union.
But Mrs May has said she will not interfere in the honours process because it would set a bad precedent.
Mr Taylor’s withdrawal came as the Times claimed that Mr Cameron was set to abandon his bid to secure a peerage for another major Tory donor, Michael Spencer, amid opposition from the Lords Appointments Commission linked to his company Icap’s role in the Libor scandal.
The cronyism controversy was sparked by reports that Mr Cameron had recommended knighthoods for four pro-EU cabinet colleagues – Philip Hammond, Michael Fallon, Patrick McLoughlin and David Lidington.
The Sunday Times reported that Mr Cameron also requested a Companion of Honour award for George Osborne, who was dismissed as chancellor by Prime Minister Theresa May.
Will Straw, head of the failed official pro-Remain campaign, was proposed for a CBE, and more than 20 Downing Street staff were recommended for awards, according to the report.
Among those reported to be recommended for OBEs is Isabel Spearman, who helped Samantha Cameron with her diary and outfits for various engagements.
Nominations for honours are reviewed by honours committees, which include senior civil servants and people judged to be independent of the Government.
Each committee has a majority of independent members, with one of them chairing discussions, and reviews nominations for specific activities such as sport or arts and media, according to the Government.
A No 10 representative is invited to attend all meetings.
The individual committees feed into the main honours committee, which then produces a list and its decisions go to the Prime Minister and then the Queen – who bestows the honour.