Sir James Dyson has moved back to the UK, Companies House documents show, amid a row over texts the billionaire vacuum cleaner maker exchanged with Boris Johnson over tax problems during the pandemic.
The documents, which were first reported by the Telegraph, show that Dyson’s new residence is in the UK.
He had moved to tax haven Singapore two years ago, a move he described as a commercial decision unrelated to Brexit.
The revelation comes after Johnson said he makes “no apologies” for promising to “fix” a tax issue for Sir James Dyson, after the billionaire agreed to make ventilators for the UK’s Covid effort last year.
Johnson told MPs this afternoon that any Prime Minister would “shift heaven and earth” to “secure ventilators for the people of this country” last March as the coronavirus crisis swept the globe.
Dyson, who is based in tax haven Singapore, wrote to the Treasury asking for assurances that his staff would not have to pay extra tax if they came to the UK to make ventilators during the pandemic.
But a series of text messages seen by the BBC show the hoover tycoon then went directly to the prime minister to ask for his support.
In response Johnson said: “I will fix it.” He later added: “James I am First Lord of the Treasury and you can take it that we are backing you to do what you need.”
Starmer hit out at the text messages in Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) today, saying Johnson’s government embodied “sleaze, sleaze, sleaze”.
In response, Johnson said: “If he’s referring to my texts to James Dyson I make absolutely no apology at all Mr Speaker for shifting heaven and earth and doing everything I possibly could as any Prime Minister would in those circumstances to secure ventilators for the people of this country and to save lives and to roll out a ventilator procurement which the Labour controlled Public Affairs Committee themselves said was a benchmark for procurement.”
The government also defended the prime minister’s actions, saying: “As the public would expect, we did everything we could in extraordinary times to protect our citizens and get access to the right medical equipment.”
Dyson said it was “absurd to suggest that the urgent correspondence was anything other than seeking compliance with rules” and that his company did not receive any benefit from the project.
The exchanges took place during the outbreak of the pandemic in March last year as the government was scrambling to secure extra ventilators amid fears the NHS could be overrun.
Dyson said his company spent £20m developing a ventilator, though the product was never required. He said the firm had covered all these costs and had delayed its own commercial ventures while serving the “national cause”.
He added that the tech firm had not claimed “one penny” from any government for Covid support.
The entrepreneur said he was “hugely proud” of his firm’s response to the pandemic and he would “do the same again if asked”.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden today also defended the correspondence, telling the BBC: “We were in the middle of a national emergency and the prime minister was doing this not for his own gain, James Dyson wasn’t doing this for his own gain, we were doing it in order to ensure that we got these ventilators rapidly in order to ensure that we dealt with a national emergency and it was a temporary measure.”
The messages have emerged amid heightened scrutiny over lobbying in Westminster following revelations about David Cameron’s activities on behalf of collapsed finance firm Greensill.
The prime minister has now ordered an inquiry into the matter, while the former prime minister has been asked to appear in front of the Treasury committee.