PMQs: Boris Johnson dodges Keir Starmer questions over who ‘initially’ paid for Downing St refurbishment

Sophia Sleigh
·3-min read
 (Sky News)
(Sky News)

Boris Johnson dodged questions over who “initially” paid the invoice for his Downing Street flat refurbishment, during a heated Prime Minister’s Questions.

At points the Prime Minister looked visibly angry during the fiery exchange over the revamp of the Downing Street flat and speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle had to intervene to tell heckling MPs to “calm it down”.

Sir Keir pressed the PM: “Who initially, and Prime Minister, ‘initially’ is the key word here, who initially paid for the redecoration of his Downing Street flat?”

Mr Johnson replied: “As for the latest stuff that he is bringing up, he should know that I have paid for Downing Street refurbishment personally.

“And I contrast it... any further declaration that I have to make, if any, I will be advised upon by Lord Geidt.”

Sir Keir refused to let it lie and quipped: “Normally when people don’t want to incriminate themselves they go ‘no comment’.

“Either the taxpayer paid the initial invoice, or it was the Conservative Party or it was a private donor or it was the Prime Minister.

“So I’m making it easy for the Prime Minister – it’s now multiple choice. There are only four options – it should be easier than finding the Chatty Rat. Who paid the initial invoice for the redecoration of the Prime Minister’s flat? The initial invoice?”

Mr Johnson hit back: “I’ve given him the answer and the answer is I have covered the costs and I think most people will find it absolutely bizarre.

“Of course the Electoral Commission are investigating this and I can tell him that I’ve conformed in full with the code of conduct, with the ministerial code, officials have been advising me throughout this whole thing.

“But I think people will think it absolutely bizarre that he is focusing on this issue when what people want to know is what plans a Labour Government might have to improve the lives of people in this country...”

It comes after the Prime Minister was plunged into a full-scale storm over the revamp of his No11 Downing Street flat as the Electoral Commission said there were “reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence” may have taken place in relation to its funding.

The bombshell statement was released less than an hour before Mr Johnson was due to face the Labour leader during their weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session.

A spokesperson for the commission said: “We are now satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred. We will therefore continue this work as a formal investigation to establish whether this is the case.

“The investigation will determine whether any transactions relating to the works at 11 Downing Street fall within the regime regulated by the Commission and whether such funding was reported as required.”

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

The PM’s former aide Dominic Cummings last week released a blog in which he accused the PM of wanting donors to “secretly pay” for the renovations to his No11 residence in a “possibly illegal” move.

Downing Street has so far refused to say whether Mr Johnson received an initial loan from the Conservative Party to cover the renovations to the flat at No 11.

Prime ministers get a budget of up to £30,000 per year to renovate their Downing Street home, but newspaper reports have suggested Mr Johnson may have spent up to £200,000.

The Daily Mail unveiled details of an email from Tory peer Lord Brownlow in which he said he was making a £58,000 donation to the party “to cover the payments the party has already made on behalf of the soon-to-be-formed ‘Downing Street Trust”’.

A No 10 spokeswoman has said that the costs “have been met by the Prime Minister personally” and that party funds “are not being used for this”.

But Downing Street has refused to answer whether party funds were used in the past.

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