PM will not face watchdog investigation into Downing Street flat refurbishment

10 January 2022, 14:49 | Updated: 10 January 2022, 17:39

Labour has described the way the refurb was funded as "corruption plain and simple"
Labour has described the way the refurb was funded as "corruption plain and simple". Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Parliament's "sleaze" watchdog will not investigate the £112,000 refurbishment of Boris Johnson's Downing Street flat, No 10 has confirmed.

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Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone has faced calls to investigate whether the Prime Minister broke the rules for MPs over the refurb.

It comes 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 it.

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Labour called on Ms Stone to open an inquiry after it emerged the PM discussed a pet project by Lord Brownlow for a "Great Exhibition 2.0" on WhatsApp while also asking for the go-ahead for the refurbishment work.

Ministerial records show, 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.

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.

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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 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.

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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 PM said after he learned 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.