Labour calls for 'full investigation' into Boris Johnson's Downing Street refurb

24 April 2021, 20:46

The lavish overhaul of the flat - overseen by Mr Johnson's fiancee Carrie Symonds - has reportedly cost up to £200,000
The lavish overhaul of the flat - overseen by Mr Johnson's fiancee Carrie Symonds - has reportedly cost up to £200,000. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A "full investigation" into Boris Johnson's Downing Street flat refurbishment should be held, Labour has insisted.

The Prime Minister insisted he paid for the work in No 11 himself after his ex-adviser Dominic Cummings said he tried to get Tory donors to fund it.

As part of a number of explosive allegations in his blog, Mr Cummings branded the suggestion of getting a donor to fund it "unethical, foolish, possibly illegal".

READ MORE: Boris Johnson denies blocking inquiry 'because it could expose Carrie Symonds' friend'

Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has now called for a full investigation and written to the PM to say: "The Ministerial Code clearly states 'Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament and the public'.

"This has not happened. Given we know it only takes a text message from a friend to get the full attention at the top of your government, many people will wonder what personal goodwill could be generated by a secret donation to the redecoration of your living quarters.

"Any external financial aid to a Prime Minister's lifestyle must of course be fully declared at the time and as the Ministerial Code makes clear, real and perceived conflicts of interest must be avoided."

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "At all times, the Government and Ministers have acted in accordance with the appropriate codes of conduct and electoral law, and have followed official advice.

"All reportable donations are transparently declared and published – either by the Electoral Commission or the House of Commons registrar – in line with the requirements set out in electoral law, and gifts and benefits received in a ministerial capacity are declared in transparency returns."

The Government has said Mr Johnson met the cost of the refurb – reportedly £200,000 – out of his own pocket.

Cabinet Office minister Lord True said aside from standard work on "painting, sanding and floorboards", "any costs of wider refurbishment in this year have been met by the Prime Minister personally".

The details - revealed in a House of Lords written answer - follow intense speculation as to how the revamp of the flat has been paid for.

Ex-adviser to the PM Dominic Cummings has posted a series of allegations
Ex-adviser to the PM Dominic Cummings has posted a series of allegations. Picture: PA

READ MORE: Dominic Cummings denies leaking Prime Minister's text messages

Normally, prime ministers receive an annual allowance of up to £30,000 to contribute to the costs of maintaining and furnishing the residency.

However, there have been reports that the lavish overhaul of the flat - overseen by Mr Johnson's fiancee Carrie Symonds - has run to £200,000.

In his answer, Lord True said the Government had been "considering the merits" of whether in future works on the Downing Street estate could be funded by a trust.

He said this could mirror the longstanding arrangements in place for the Prime Minister's official country residence at Chequers, which is held in a private trust, or Dorneywood, which is a charitable trust, reducing the need for public subsidy.

"Such matters are legally complex and policy development is ongoing," he said.

Mr Johnson stopped speaking to Mr Cummings about the issue last year, the ex-Number 10 aide said.

Mr Cummings said he had refused to help organise payments from donors and said the plan would have "almost certainly" broken the rules on "proper disclosure of political donations".

The aide, who left Downing Street towards the end of last year, said he was responding to accusations made by Mr Johnson's current director of communications "regarding me and leaks concerning the PM's renovation of his flat".

In a post on his blog, Mr Cummings wrote: "The PM stopped speaking to me about this matter in 2020 as I told him I thought his plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended.

"I refused to help him organise these payments. My knowledge about them is therefore limited.

"I would be happy to tell the Cabinet Secretary or Electoral Commission what I know concerning this matter."