Tory Party not sure if Craig Williams had insider knowledge on election or whether it was 'just a hunch', says minister

24 June 2024, 08:51 | Updated: 24 June 2024, 09:00

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Minister Chris Heaton-Harris suggested the Conservative Party does not know whether Craig Williams had insider knowledge when he placed his bet on the election or whether it was "just a hunch". Picture: Getty/LBC

By Flaminia Luck

Chris Heaton-Harris suggested the Conservative Party does not know whether Craig Williams had insider knowledge when he placed his bet on the election or whether it was "just a hunch".

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Mr Williams - a Tory candidate - admitted to having "a flutter", placing a £100 bet on a July election.

On Sunday, the Gambling Commission has widened its investigation to include those associated with senior Tories linked to alleged bets placed on the date of the election.

"There's both a principle point and a practical point there," the Northern Ireland Secretary told LBC on Monday when pressed on why the Tory candidate has not had party backing withdrawn.

"It needs to be determined whether or not he had prior knowledge."

Presenter Nick Ferrari probed him on this point and raised that Mr Williams had admitted to making a mistake.

"He said he made a bet and that was a mistake.

"We don't know and I don't believe anybody does know, maybe the Gambling Commission do... but we don't know whether he did that with prior knowledge or whether that was just a hunch or whatever."

He added that he supports the Prime Minister in not suspending candidates caught up in the alleged betting scandal.

“You’re innocent until proven guilty, it’s an independent body the Gambling Commission taking forward that investigation until you know all the facts, including knowledge of when the announcement might have been and what the announcement was, then you’re innocent until proven guilty’.

Asked how damaging the scandal was, he said: "It's not great because we should be talking about how we're going to lower taxes and how we're going to lower immigration."

Read more: Election betting scandal widens to include 'family and friends' of senior Tories

Chris Heaton-Harris speaks to Nick Ferrari

When probed about ULEZ, Mr Heaton-Harris was unable to say how much motorists get charged daily for driving a vehicle that does not meet the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) standards in London.

The Northern Ireland Secretary told LBC: "Forgive me for not being able to answer this question, but I'm a protected person, which means that police have been driving me since I got this job."

Mr replied: "Right, but you're being put up by the Conservative Party to talk about how it will be such a benefit because you will stop the Ulez expansion, and no one's told you how much Ulez costs."

"I don't know how much Ulez costs. I could probably have asked... I should have asked one of the Met Police guys who drives me around because they would definitely have been able to tell me."

The Ulez charge is £12.50 a day.

CHH on ULEZ

Booking giant Entain, the owner of high street betting shops Ladbrokes and Corals, is said to have then notified the commission after Mr Williams made the bet.

Following the discovery, the commission then wrote to all UK gambling companies to request details of individuals who had placed bets exceeding £20 on the date of the election within days of Rishi Sunak making the announcement on 22 May.

It comes as Michael Gove warned that the ongoing betting scandal is as bad for the Tories as Partygate.

Read More: Another top Tory official investigated over 'dozens of bets placed on election' but denies wrongdoing

Read More: Gove says election bets are ‘betrayal of Prime Minister’s trust’ as second Tory candidate investigated by regulator

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