Call for inquiry into Boris Johnson’s conduct over ‘cronyism’ rejected

23 April 2021, 00:00 | Updated: 23 April 2021, 10:34

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves called for him to "urgently investigate the Prime Minister's conduct"
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves called for him to "urgently investigate the Prime Minister's conduct". Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The Labour Party’s call for an investigation into Boris Johnson's conduct over "cronyism" has been rejected by a committee of senior MPs.

The call was issued by shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves after it emerged the Prime Minister exchanged text messages with billionaire Sir James Dyson over the tax status of employees helping to make ventilators amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Liaison Committee's chairman Sir Bernard Jenkin rejected her appeal, stating that existing inquiries were already examining the issues.

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The panel, made up of the chairmen and women of the Commons select committees, will call Mr Johnson for an evidence session before the House breaks for the summer on July 22.

Sir Bernard said the MPs would make sure the Prime Minister answers "any relevant questions in good time".

Ms Reeves had written to Sir Bernard calling for him to "urgently investigate the Prime Minister's conduct", raising concerns about a "lack of transparency around commercial lobbying and cronyism".

But Tory MP Sir Bernard said: "All of the issues raised in the letter sent fall under an existing select committee inquiry.

"Select committees have been working hard and in close cooperation to ensure that their respective inquiries avoid duplication and cover all the necessary questions.

"The chairs of select committees have also made it clear that they do not welcome the Liaison Committee interfering or seeking to pre-empt their inquiries and it is part of my role to listen to them.

"My committee is the only one to hold evidence sessions with the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister has already committed to appearing before the Liaison Committee before the summer recess.

"The Liaison Committee will want to raise any issues which are not covered by the existing committee inquiries. We will also want to make sure that the Prime Minister answers any relevant questions in good time."

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, the Public Accounts Committee and the Treasury Committee have all launched investigations into links between the Government and the business world.

The various investigations were prompted by revelations about former prime minister David Cameron's lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital but are also examining wider issues.

Meanwhile, Downing Street has announced an internal inquiry into the leak of the private text messages between Mr Johnson and Sir James.

Mr Johnson promised the entrepreneur he would "fix" the issue after personal lobbying from Sir James as he sought to build ventilators at the height of the coronavirus crisis, in a series of text messages seen by the BBC.

No 10 had initially said there would not be a probe into how the exchange was made public, but a change of course was announced on Thursday as it said an internal inquiry will be led by the Cabinet Office.

Downing Street has said it will officially publish correspondence between Mr Johnson and Sir James "shortly", after the Prime Minister told the Commons he was "happy to share all the details" of the exchanges.