Labour accuses Johnson of lying about flat refurbishment


The Labour party on Tuesday accused Boris Johnson of lying about who paid for the renovation of his Downing Street flat.

The UK prime minister is under intense scrutiny about the refurbishment of the flat above 11 Downing Street after his former chief adviser Dominic Cummings last week claimed Johnson planned “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal” use of Conservative party donors’ money for the work.

Number 10 on Friday said that costs relating to the refurbishment this year had been met by Johnson, but on Monday did not deny the prime minister had initially received a loan from Tory headquarters to cover the work.

Downing Street on Tuesday reiterated its position of last week, noting how the prime minister was entitled to a £30,000 annual state grant for work on the flat.

It said: “Any costs of wider refurbishment this year beyond those provided for by the annual allowance have been met by the prime minister personally. Conservative party funds are not being used for this.”

The statement did not rule out Tory funds having been used in 2020, or prior to last year, for the refurbishment.

Johnson on Monday said any necessary declarations by him in relation to the flat refurbishment would be made “in due course”, and suggested people were more interested in the government’s vaccine rollout.

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said Johnson had not clarified whether loans for the refurbishment had been made in the past, or provided details of any individuals behind them.

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“We really need to know who’s given the loan, who’s given the money, because we need to know who the prime minister . . . is beholden to,” he told the BBC. “To be honest he lied yesterday — that’s not good enough.”

Labour has also said the Electoral Commission, which scrutinises donations to political parties, should launch an inquiry into the Johnson’s flat refurbishment.

The commission has not launched a full investigation but is working to establish whether any rules around reporting of donations have been breached.

One well-placed Conservative official said the party was in discussions with the commission and had “nothing to fear” from its work. “We will be co-operating fully and totally transparent,” added the official.

Downing Street is trying to draw a line under the controversy, partly through the appointment of a new independent adviser on ministerial interests.

Sir Alex Allan, the previous adviser, resigned in November after Johnson rejected his finding that home secretary Priti Patel had breached the ministerial code by bullying civil servants.

Whitehall insiders said Number 10 had selected an independent member of the House of Lords with a long record of public service to undertake the role.

One of the adviser’s first tasks will be to adjudicate on whether Johnson breached the ministerial code in relation to the refurbishment of the 11 Downing Street flat. The adviser will also oversee publication of a much-delayed update to the register of ministerial interests.

Meanwhile, a High Court judge on Tuesday said a judicial review could take place into Johnson’s decision to over-rule Allan last year on whether Patel breached the ministerial code.

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The FDA, the trade union for senior civil servants which sought the judicial review, said: “We welcome the opportunity now granted to argue . . . the prime minister erred in his interpretation of the ministerial code when deciding that the home secretary did not break the code.”



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