PM acted 'unwisely' on flat refurb but didn't break ministerial code, report says

28 May 2021, 15:36 | Updated: 28 May 2021, 22:47

Boris Johnson did not break the ministerial code, a report found
Boris Johnson did not break the ministerial code, a report found. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson "unwisely" allowed the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat to go ahead without "more rigorous regard" over the funding but did not break the ministerial code, a report has found.

Lord Geidt, the new independent adviser on ministerial standards, found the Prime Minister knew "nothing about" payments for the refurbishment work on his Downing Street flat until reports in the media surfaced.

The peer, in a report published on Friday, said Mr Johnson should have been "more rigorous" about the funding of the renovations.

But the report concluded that Mr Johnson did not break the ministerial code and that the PM "took steps to make the relevant declarations" over the funding.

Lord Geidt said it was Conservative donor Lord Brownlow who settled an invoice for work on the No 11 flat, a bill reported to be £200,000.

There had been discussions about a Downing Street Trust being set up to pay for the work, before legal advice received in June 2020 "raised doubts" about whether such a body "would be capable of dealing with costs associated with the private residences", said the adviser.

Lord Geidt said in his report: "By the late autumn of 2020, it was apparent that a trust capable of meeting the original objects (including the costs of refurbishing the No 11 Downing Street residence) was still likely to be many months off.

"On October 20 2020, Lord Brownlow confirmed to Cabinet Office officials, including by subsequently ensuring that the minutes properly recorded the fact, that he had the day before settled an invoice for the No 11 Downing Street residence refurbishment works directly with the supplier.

"Cabinet Office officials appear not to have acted on this information to the extent of informing the Prime Minister, let alone offering him advice on his private interests.

"Moreover, despite the Prime Minister and Lord Brownlow having some limited contact during the following three months, the record shows no evidence that the Prime Minister had been informed by Lord Brownlow that he had personally settled the total costs."