A Cabinet minister has said he would place bets on “individual seats” as he has done in the past if he were “allowed to bet on the election”.

It comes as the Conservative party is embroiled in controversy involving allegations of insider betting on the date of the General Election before it was announced by Rishi Sunak.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris on Monday revealed how he would bet on the election if it was permitted.

He told Times Radio: “If I was allowed to bet on the election, I would do what I have done in the past which is have bets on individual seats that are what you would be calling too close to call because you know I quite fancied that, like my £1 bet at the beginning of a week on the multiplier for five wins on the football at the weekend.”

But Mr Heaton-Harris, who is not seeking re-election on July 4, also said he was “not really” a betting man.

Asked what he thought of people who were, he told Sky News: “I don’t mind people who have a bet on things they have no knowledge about, which is what most gamblers do.”

It emerged on another difficult weekend for the Tories that Nick Mason, the party’s head of data, is taking a leave of absence after being told he was being investigated by the Gambling Commission – joining the Conservatives’ director of campaigning and two parliamentary candidates in the regulator’s inquiry into bets on the timing of the poll.

Mr Heaton-Harris was asked whether some of his colleagues “just wanted a few quid in their pocket” amid dire poll ratings putting the Conservatives on course for an electoral drubbing.

The Northern Ireland Secretary told Sky News: “If the Gambling Commission finds that then that lowers them in my estimation.”

He suggested the party does not know whether Tory candidate Craig Williams had insider knowledge when he placed his bet on the election or whether it was “just a hunch”.

“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 told LBC radio.

The Prime Minister has come under pressure from within the Conservative Party to take a tougher stance and suspend those being investigated by the Gambling Commission.