Labour demands inquiry into Boris Johnson's conduct after Dyson texts

21 April 2021, 22:01

Labour has demanded an inquiry into Boris Johnson's conduct
Labour has demanded an inquiry into Boris Johnson's conduct. Picture: David Cliff/NurPhoto/PA Images

By Will Taylor

Labour has called for an urgent investigation into Boris Johnson’s conduct following revelations about texts with Sir James Dyson and David Cameron's lobbying.

Senior Labour MP Rachel Reeves said there is a feeling that if "one has access to a telephone number of someone like the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then they are able to gain special treatment".

She has called for a powerful Commons committee to carry out the inquiry after it emerged Mr Johnson told Sir James he would "fix" an issue over the the tax status of his employees.

Boris Johnson has said he has "nothing to conceal" while Chancellor Rishi Sunak previously told Labour that Cameron's lobbying efforts for Greensill Capital were referred to officials at the time and "appropriate consultations" were held.

Ms Reeves, the shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said the PM must give evidence before a cross-party group of MPs.

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She also called for correspondence from Mr Johnson's phone about Government business to be released and for Downing Street to publish details about communications between ministers, officials and lobbyists.

"Revelations today seem to confirm a growing feeling that if one has access to a telephone number of someone like the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then they are able to gain special treatment, potentially even significant financial ones," Ms Reeves said.

Read more: David Cameron: Government will investigate former PM's Greensill lobbying

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"We need the Prime Minister to appear before the Liaison Committee immediately and for a thorough investigation into his conduct on this matter."

The BBC reported on text messages sent between Mr Johnson and Sir James in March last year, as the entrepreneur sought to build ventilators as the coronavirus crisis took off.

Sir James Dyson wanted assurances over his employees' tax status, it was reported
Sir James Dyson wanted assurances over his employees' tax status, it was reported. Picture: PA

Sir James, whose business is now based in Singapore, was unable to get assurances from the Treasury that his staff would not need to pay additional tax if they went to the UK to work on the project.

After receiving no reply, the BBC reported that Sir James took the issue to Mr Johnson, who replied: "I will fix it tomo! We need you. It looks fantastic."

Mr Johnson was criticised by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who said the messages suggested it was "one rule for those that have got the Prime Minister's phone number, another for everybody else".

But Mr Johnson told the Commons during Prime Minister's Questions that he was "happy to share all the details" of the exchanges as there was "nothing to conceal".

Meanwhile, David Cameron has been cleared of wrongdoing over his lobbying but his advocating for Greensill – which he worked for – to get access to Government coronavirus support finance has brought greater scrutiny on the ties between Government and businesses.