PM cleared of breaking ministerial code in Downing Street flat refurb probe
Boris Johnson has been criticised for “acting unwisely” during a probe into his controversial Downing Street flat refurbishment, but has been cleared of breaking the ministerial code.
It was revealed today that Johnson apologised to his ministerial standards adviser Lord Christopher Geidt for misleading him in the investigation, after the Prime Minister failed to disclose a series of messages to Tory donor Lord David Brownlow.
The Tory party was fined £17,800 in November by the Electoral Commission for failing to disclose the more than £50,000 given by Brownlow to the party to help cover the costs of the refurbishment.
Geidt found in his investigation that Johnson had spoken to Brownlow in November 2020 about paying for the refurbishment, despite Johnson’s claims that his first contact with the Tory donor was in March 2021.
The timing is significant as Johnson initially said he had not lobbied Brownlow for the money, however his Whatsapps to the Tory donor suggest otherwise.
The texts, released by Geidt, show that Johnson told Brownlow to directly pay designer Lulu Lytle for the work while also promising to look into “[Great Exhibition 2]” – a pet project of the millionaire businessman – for him.
The Prime Minister told Geidt that he did not disclose the November 2020 Whatsapps as they were on an old phone number.
Geidt said that the incident “shook my confidence precisely because potential and real failures of process occurred in more than one part of the apparatus of government”.
However, he said that it did not fundamentally change the outcome of the probe and that the Prime Minister did not break the ministerial code.
“The new disclosure did not in fact result in change to my original assessment of your interests insofar as they related to the ministerial code.”ministerial standards adviser Lord Christopher Geidt
“I am very grateful to have your apology for these shortcomings and to know of your determination to prevent such a situation from happening again.”
In a rebuke to the Prime Minister, Geidt added: “It is plainly unsatisfactory that my earlier advice was unable to rely on the fullest possible disclosure of relevant information.
“Clearly, a very serious degree of risk attends a Prime Minister’s commission of an investigation by the independent adviser into activity touching directly on the Prime Minister’s interests, when that investigation is subsequently shown to have proceeded without reference to material requiring disclosure.”