Johnson spared parliamentary ‘sleaze’ probe over Downing Street flat

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  • Boris Johnson
    Boris Johnson
    Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2019
  • Kathryn Stone
    British ombudsman
Downing Street has confirmed that Boris Johnson will not face an investigation by Parliament’s ‘sleaze’ watchdog into the £112,000 refurbishment of his flat (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)
Downing Street has confirmed that Boris Johnson will not face an investigation by Parliament’s ‘sleaze’ watchdog into the £112,000 refurbishment of his flat (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson will not face an investigation by Parliament’s “sleaze” watchdog into the £112,000 refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, No 10 has confirmed.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone had faced calls to investigate whether the Prime Minister broke the rules for MPs after his adviser on ministerial interests, Lord Geidt, revealed last week that Mr Johnson had failed to tell him about exchanges with a Tory donor who helped fund the revamp.

Labour called on Ms Stone to open an inquiry after it emerged that the Prime Minister had discussed a pet project by Lord Brownlow for a “Great Exhibition 2.0” in WhatsApp messages in which he also asked for the go-ahead for the refurbishment work.

Ministerial records show that, six weeks later, Lord Brownlow met then-culture secretary Oliver Dowden and representatives of the Albert Hall to discuss his proposal – although it did not in the end proceed.

Lord Geidt said he was not informed of Boris Johnson’s exchanges with a Tory donor (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)
Lord Geidt said he was not informed of Boris Johnson’s exchanges with a Tory donor (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)

Labour said it was “corruption plain and simple” if Lord Brownlow was able to get access to ministers in return for helping to bankroll the redecoration work.

However the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it had been confirmed that Ms Stone would not be carrying out an inquiry into the matter.

“It is not for me to speak on behalf of her, but I understand she has confirmed they won’t be looking at that,” the spokesman said.

It is understood that Ms Stone wrote to No 10 at the end of last week, making clear that support for ministers in their ministerial activities should be declared through the Ministerial Code – which Mr Johnson did – rather than the Register of Members’ Interests, which she polices.

In his report last week, Lord Geidt said he would not have changed his original conclusion that Mr Johnson did not breach the Ministerial Code if he had been aware of the exchanges with Lord Brownlow, although he made clear his deep unhappiness at the way the issue had been handled.

The Prime Minister said after he learned that the work – which far exceeded the official £30,000 allowance – had been paid for by the Conservative Party, including a donation by Lord Brownlow, he reimbursed the costs from his own pocket.

A previous investigation by the Electoral Commission resulted in the party being fined £17,800 for failing to properly declare a £67,000 donation from a firm controlled by Lord Brownlow.

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