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Boris Johnson behaved ‘unwisely’ by letting Wallpaper-gate go ahead without checking who was paying for it but is CLEARED of breaching ministerial code, investigation finds
- Investigation finds PM had no idea Lord Brownlow contributed towards re-fit
- Lord Geidt concluded no conflict of interest had arisen over the refurbishment
- Report said Mr Johnson had been let down by ‘significant failings’ from officials
Boris Johnson behaved ‘unwisely’ in allowing the lavish makeover of his flat to go ahead without checking who was footing the bill, an investigation found last night.
In a highly critical report, the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial standards concluded that Mr Johnson should have had ‘more rigorous regard for how this would be funded’.
Lord Geidt concluded the Prime Minister had no idea that Tory donor Lord Brownlow had contributed towards the refit until the payment was revealed by Simon Walters in the Daily Mail three months ago.
Lord Geidt’s report said Lord Brownlow told Cabinet Office officials that he had settled an invoice for the works ‘directly with the supplier’ – but did not reveal the sum.
In a highly critical report, the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial standards concluded that Mr Johnson should have had ‘more rigorous regard for how this would be funded
However, earlier this year the Daily Mail saw an email from the peer to Tory chairman Ben Elliot in which he said he had paid £58,000 to Conservative HQ to cover the same amount that had been spent by the party months earlier on the flat refit.
Lord Geidt suggested Mr Johnson’s actions raised questions over whether he had fulfilled his ‘absolute duty’ to set a high standard of conduct as Prime Minister but cleared him of breaching the ministerial code.
The controversial makeover of Mr Johnson’s official flat above 11 Downing Street by upmarket interior designer Lulu Lytle was said to have cost a six-figure sum.
Mr Johnson’s former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, claimed in April that the Prime Minister had planned to have Tory donors cover the costs of the refurbishment, a move he considered ‘unethical, foolish, [and] possibly illegal’.
In his report, Lord Geidt revealed that the work began in April last year while Mr Johnson was in hospital with Covid, and the first invoices were paid by the Cabinet Office and subsequently recharged to the Conservative Party.
The controversial makeover of Mr Johnson’s official flat above 11 Downing Street by upmarket interior designer Lulu Lytle (who is pictured above) was said to have cost a six-figure sum
This was in anticipation of a new Downing Street Trust being set up to meet the huge cost.
The report said Mr Johnson had been let down by ‘significant failings’ from officials who should have done more to check whether establishing a trust to pay for the refurbishment was a good idea.
Lord Geidt concluded no conflict of interest had arisen over the refurbishment and Number 10 said last night the report exonerated Mr Johnson, who has now paid back the cost of the works.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said it was ‘staggering’ that the Prime Minister could rack up such a huge bill ‘yet have no knowledge of how it was eventually paid’.
Lord Geidt suggested Mr Johnson’s actions raised questions over whether he had fulfilled his ‘absolute duty’ to set a high standard of conduct as Prime Minister but cleared him of breaching the ministerial code
Lord Geidt said there had been discussions about a Downing Street Trust but legal advice received in June last year ‘raised doubts’ about whether such a body ‘would be capable of dealing with costs associated with the private residences’.
His report said Lord Brownlow then eventually paid towards the costs of the work. But the peer found Mr Johnson had not been aware of this and criticised Cabinet Office officials for not telling him about it.
He found that despite Lord Brownlow having met Mr Johnson in the subsequent months, he never told him he had settled the bill. Lord Geidt said: ‘The Prime Minister – unwisely, in my view – allowed the refurbishment of the apartment at No 11 Downing Street to proceed without more rigorous regard for how this would be funded.’
But he added the Prime Minister knew ‘nothing’ about payments for the refurbishment work until the issue was revealed in the Daily Mail in February – eight months after the first invoices were received.
He said Mr Johnson then ‘immediately sought the necessary advice’ and settled the full amount himself on March 8.
Lord Geidt said: ‘It is clear… the [Downing Street] Trust was not subjected to a scheme of rigorous project management by officials. Given the level of the Prime Minister’s expectations for the trust to deliver on the objects he had set, this was a significant failing.’
Lord Geidt concluded no conflict of interest had arisen over the refurbishment and Number 10 said last night the report exonerated Mr Johnson, who has now paid back the cost of the works
Lord Geidt ordered Mr Johnson and Lord Brownlow to declare the money in the official registers. He said although the country was in the grip of the pandemic, this was not an excuse.
‘It cannot be right to assert that the duty attaching to all ministers, and not least to the Prime Minister to observe the high standards of what is, after all, his ministerial code is anything other than absolute,’ he concluded.
No 10 said: ‘Lord Geidt’s independent report shows the Prime Minister acted in accordance with the ministerial code at all times. The Prime Minister has made a declaration in his List of Ministerial Interests, as advised by Lord Geidt.’
Matt Hancock was yesterday found to have breached the ministerial code – but was spared any sanction by Boris Johnson.
Lord Geidt found the Health Secretary failed to declare that a family firm he held shares in had won an NHS contract.
But he concluded the ‘minor’ failure was inadvertent and should ‘in no way impugn his good character or ministerial record’. Last night the Prime Minister wrote to Mr Hancock to say he agreed with the findings.
Mr Hancock declared in the MPs’ register of interests only in March that he holds a 20 per cent stake in Topwood Ltd, a firm owned by his sister, which specialises in secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents.
It won a framework contract with the NHS in 2019. Mr Hancock was made Health Secretary in July 2018. Lord Geidt found that could be seen to ‘represent a conflict of interest’ and that the failure to declare it at the time was a ‘technical’ breach of the rules.
The conclusion is likely to pile further pressure on Mr Hancock, who was accused this week by Mr Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings of lying and failing to protect care homes during the pandemic.
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