Downing Street defends PM’s transparency over luxury villa holiday

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No 10 has defended the Prime Minister’s transparency record, as it insisted a family holiday to Marbella at a Tory peer’s villa was declared in accordance with the rules.

Last month the Prime Minister jetted off to the south of Spain with his wife Carrie and son Wilfred.

The latest update on the register of ministerial interests showed the accommodation the Johnsons enjoyed was provided free of charge by the family of Conservative peer Zac Goldsmith.

Lord Goldsmith
Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith (Steve Parsons/PA)

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said this should also have been declared in the Commons’ register for members’ interests, and has written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards urging her to open an investigation, a call echoed by the Liberal Democrats.

But Downing Street has insisted this was not necessary, with a spokesman for the Prime Minister saying: “Earlier this year, the Prime Minister received hospitality from a longstanding friend who provided use of their holiday home.

“The Prime Minister’s met the transparency requirements in relation to this, he declared this arrangement in his ministerial capacity, given this was hospitality provided by another minister.”

He said the PM’s ministerial standards adviser, Lord Geidt, had scrutinised the declaration as part of the process.

The spokesman declined to answer when asked how much the holiday was worth, but added: “Given the hospitality was provided by another minister, it’s right that the PM made this declaration in his ministerial capacity to ensure sufficient transparency.

Cop26 – Glasgow
The Prince of Wales speaks to Lord Goldsmith and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng during the Cop26 summit in Glasgow (Phil Noble/PA)

“I also point out that this was a family holiday at the home of longstanding family friends and is unconnected with a PM’s parliamentary and political activities.

“The PM has written to the House of Commons registrar to set out that this holiday has been declared under the ministerial code, because the arrangement is with another minister.”

The spokesman did not clarify when asked whether the register had replied to Mr Johnson’s letter, but added: “As I say, ministerial code declarations fall outside the remit of the House of Commons registrar and Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.”

But writing to standards commissioner Kathryn Stone, Ms Rayner said: “This appears to be a breach of the House Code of Conduct and the rules relating to the conduct of members regarding the declaration and registration of interests and gifts.”

She said that under a previous conduct investigation it had been found that “Mr Johnson was required to register the holiday accommodation he received in the Register of Members’ Interests” in relation to a £15,000 stay on the island of Mustique.

And she added Mr Johnson “has a long history of breaching the rules in relation to parliamentary standards and other integrity and anti-corruption measures”.

The letter said: “We cannot have a situation where Boris Johnson behaves like it’s one rule for him and another for everyone else.”

Liberal Dem chief whip Wendy Chamberlain added: “Boris Johnson and the Tories have shown this week they don’t have a shred of integrity left.

“The independent standards commissioner should urgently launch an investigation into whether Boris Johnson breached the code of conduct by failing to properly declare his holiday.

“The Tories have shown they can’t be trusted to mark their own homework on this issue. They are now the party of sleaze.”

The entry to the ministerial register notes Mr Johnson has a “longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family” who had provided the villa.

The Prime Minister made Lord Goldsmith a life peer shortly after voters dumped him as the MP for Richmond Park in a defeat to the Liberal Democrats in 2019.

It paved the way for Mr Johnson to hand Lord Goldsmith a job in Government, first in the Foreign Office before being made environment minister.

Labour Party Conference 2021
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The register says: “The Prime Minister has a longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family and, in that capacity, in October 2021, stayed in a holiday home in southern Spain which was provided free of charge by the Goldsmiths.

“Given Lord Goldsmith is a minister of the Crown, the arrangement has accordingly been declared.”

Mr Johnson faced criticism at the time of his holiday in the Costa del Sol as it came while the Government was battling to stem a cost-of-living crisis and the fallout from spiralling gas prices.

At the time, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman refused to be drawn on reports that Mr Johnson was staying at the Goldsmith family’s villa.

Separately, the spokesman for the Prime Minister said on Friday that it would be “entirely a matter for the commissioner” whether she opens an investigation into the initial funding of the Prime Minister’s flat refurbishments.

In April this year, Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge reported Mr Johnson to Ms Stone over the initial redecoration costs of his Downing Street flat, but it has not yet been announced whether the commissioner will be looking into the allegations.

Asked whether No 10 would condemn any pressure put on Ms Stone from MPs over the potential investigation, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “That’s entirely a matter for the commissioner.

“Obviously, we wouldn’t want to see that happening.”

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