Sleaze latest: Boris Johnson faces renewed questions over luxury holiday near Marbella

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Boris Johnson and wife Carrie enjoyed a break at a lavish villa owned by the family of Lord Goldsmith  (PA Wire)
Boris Johnson and wife Carrie enjoyed a break at a lavish villa owned by the family of Lord Goldsmith (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson faced questions on Friday over why he had not declared a luxury holiday near Marbella in the MPs’ register of interests.

Downing Street insisted the break at a lavish villa owned by the family of Lord Goldsmith, who the Prime Minister made a peer and gave a job in Government, had been correctly declared in the list of ministerial interests.

However, it did not detail how much the holiday last month would have cost.

No10 faced a series of questions over the break and the refurbishment of Mr Johnson’s Downing Street flat as the Tory party was rocked by the Owen Paterson sleaze storm.

On the holiday, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “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.

“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.”

However, the stance is likely to fuel suspicions that Mr Johnson does not want to make public the cost of the holiday which he enjoyed in the south of Spain with his wife Carrie and son Wilfred.

He has declared it in the list of ministerial interests as being provided free of charge by the family of Lord Goldsmith, who the Prime Minister handed a peerage and a ministerial job after he lost his seat as MP for Richmond Park.

The register notes Mr Johnson has a “longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family”.

Mr Goldsmith was made a life peer shortly after losing the Richmond seat to the Liberal Democrats two years ago.

He has been given a job as environment minister and also in the Foreign Office.

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.”

Downing Street said the PM’s ministerial standards adviser Lord Geidt had scrutinised the Marbella declaration.

The spokesman added: “The ministerial code declarations fall outside the remit of the House of Commons register.

“And as I say, in line with transparency requirements the PM has declared this arrangement in his ministerial capacity.”

Lord Geidt was appointed after his predecessor Sir Alex Allan resigned in an unprecendented move after the Prime Minister backed Home Secretary Priti Patel over a “bullying” inquiry.

Sir Alex had concluded that she had broken the code governing ministers’ behaviour.

However, Mr Johnson rejected his findings and kept her in post.

In another startling challenge to the system to maintain standards in public life, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on Thursday suggested that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, should consider her position over the Paterson sleaze row.

Labour on Friday urged the Commissioner to launch an inquiry into the Marbella holiday and whether it should have been declared.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner wrote to the sleaze watchdog, arguing: “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 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 Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP added: “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.”

On a separate matter, Downing Street said it was “entirely a matter for the commissioner” whether she opens an investigation into the initial funding of the Prime Minister’s flat refurbishments.

Lord Geidt cleared Mr Johnson of breaking the ministerial code of conduct but found he had acted “unwisely” by not being more “rigorous” in finding out who had funded improvement works on the flat.

A Tory donor paid an invoice for some of the costs of the refurishment which was overseen by the PM’s then fiancée now wife Carrie Symonds.

The work is believed to have cost around £90,000, with former Conservative vice-chairman Lord Brownlow reportedly putting £58,000 towards it initially.

Downing Street has suggested the peer was repaid, with the Prime Minister picking up this bill.

Read More

The Leader podcast: Has Boris Johnson’s authority been damaged?

No single ‘anti-sleaze’ candidate will challenge Tories in Paterson by-election

Labour confirms party will stand a candidate in North Shropshire by-election

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting