Labour demands probe into PM's Downing Street flat refurb as watchdog row escalates

5 November 2021, 19:42

Angela Rayner has called for an investigation into the Prime Minister.
Angela Rayner has called for an investigation into the Prime Minister. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Labour has demanded a probe into Boris Johnson over his Downing Street flat refurbishment, as the dispute with the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner continues.

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It comes after Tory MP Owen Paterson was found to have repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for two companies, facing a vote on his suspension earlier in the week.

Labour urged Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone - who was behind the investigation into Mr Paterson - to look into the potential breaching of parliamentary rules over the financing of Mr Johnson's Downing Street flat refurbishment.

The party's deputy leader, Angela Rayner, wrote to Ms Stone calling for the probe, accusing Mr Johnson of “attempting to make Conservative MPs judge and jury over allegations of corruption and rule-breaking”.

Former aide Dominic Cummings previously accused Mr Johnson of wanting donors to "secretly pay" for the renovations to his No11 residence, but the Prime Minister said he "personally" paid for the renovations, refusing to say whether he received an initial loan from the Tory party.

Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministerial standards, said in a report following the incident that Mr Johnson "unwisely" allowed the refurbishment to go ahead without "more rigorous regard" over the funding but did not break the ministerial code.

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Ms Rayner said Mr Johnson's attempts to undermine the Commissioner over the sleaze scandal were an "attack on our democracy".

“This week the Prime Minister’s corruption was clear for all to see when he tried to over-ride the Commissioner who is set to investigate him for breaking the rules and replace an independent cross-party committee with a sham group of Conservative stooges who would do his bidding," she said.

“Boris Johnson’s attempt to make Conservative MPs judge and jury over allegations of corruption and rule-breaking was a blatant attempt to prevent the Commissioner from investigating his latest breaches of the rules.

“The events of the past few days are an attack on our democracy and have undermined the integrity of public office and our public life.

"It is absolutely vital that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is now able to conduct this investigation without any further attempts by the Prime Minister to block this investigation, over-ride or abolish the Commissioner or the Standards Committee and the bullying, threats and intimidation from Conservative Ministers must stop immediately.

“It can’t be one rule for Boris Johnson and another for the rest of us, and our corrupt and sleazy Prime Minister must be held to account just like anybody else would be if they broke the rules.”

Read more: 'Wallowing in sleaze': MPs save Tory from suspension in lobbying scandal

The chaos in Westminster escalated further on Thursday, when Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng suggested the commissioner should "decide her position" as part of plans to reform the process.

However, the comments were followed by a speedy u-turn from the Government over its anti-sleaze rules amid a huge backlash.

It comes as MPs have also called for an inquiry over Mr Johnson's luxury Spanish holiday, which he failed to declare the value of in the MPs’ register of financial interests.