Boris Johnson probe chief quits after having met Richard Sharp

Boris Johnson says Richard Sharp controversy is ‘nonsense’

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The head of the UK’s appointments watchdog has recused himself from the investigation into Richard Sharp. William Shawcross, the commissioner for public appointments, admitted he had “met Mr Sharp on previous occasions” in a letter published on Monday. An independent replacement will serve in his stead, but the news has sparked additional questions about “cosy” relationships in the upper echelons of the country’s top institutions.

Mr Shawcross was due to investigate Richard Sharp’s appointment as BBC chair after he was alleged to have helped ex-PM Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan weeks before he was recommended for the position.

He stepped back a week after it was announced that he would spearhead the investigation but will now “play no part”, he confirmed on Monday.

In his letter, he said he had decided to recuse himself as he had previously met Mr Sharp.

Instead, he will delegate his powers to an “independent person” appointed by his office.

He added that his replacement would take “sole responsibility” with help from the commissioner’s office.

Mr Shawcross concluded: “Although I will play no part in this particular investigation, I will continue with my other regulatory functions as commissioner.”

As appointments commissioner, he must ensure public appointments made by ministers comply with the Government’s Governance Code and Principles of Public Appointments.

But Labour has slammed the announcement, stating the “truth must come out” about Sharp’s appointment.

Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell told the Guardian: “It’s taken him a week to realise a conflict of interest, sharing these cosy relationships.

“The truth must come out about this appointment.”

Mr Sharp has denied having detailed knowledge of Mr Johnson’s finances and that he advised him.

The former Prime Minister made a similar claim when approached for comment last week.

He branded the questions a “load of complete nonsense” and denied that Mr Sharp had any insight into his finances.

Mr Johnson said: “Richard Sharp is a good and a wise man, but he knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances.

“I can tell you that for one hundred percent ding dang sure.”

As the investigation begins, Mr Sharp will appear in front of MPs on the digital, culture, media and sport select committee on February 7.

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