Keir Starmer discusses questions to Boris Johnson in PMQs
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Mr Johnson has been heavily criticised this week over who paid for his recent Downing Street flat renovations, after his former chief adviser Dominic Cummings alleged the Prime Minister intended to have donors “secretly pay” for it. Some speculate the costs came to a total of £200,000 — the Prime Minister receives an annual public grant of just £30,00 to spend on the No.11 flat. Mr Johnson has maintained that he paid out for the refurbishment out of his own pocket, but the Electoral Commission has launched an investigation, saying there were “reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred”.
The Government claims the Prime Minister “acted in accordance with the appropriate codes of conduct and electoral law”.
Money was reportedly advanced to Mr Johnson — a move which should be declared to the public within 28 days of the donation or loan — which he later paid back.
Labour has also pushed for Mr Johnson to reveal the full costs and the source of the money for the refurbishment.
The party’s leader Sir Keir Starmer branded the Prime Minister “Major Sleaze” on Wednesday during PMQs in the ongoing “cash for curtains” row.
The spat has revived concerns over a particular getaway the Prime Minister went on with Carrie Symonds at the end of 2019.
Shortly after Mr Johnson secured a landslide victory in the general election, he took Ms Symonds on holiday to Mustique, the elite island in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
This is a luxury Caribbean holiday destination regarded as particularly upmarket, and regularly visited by the Royal Family.
Mr Johnson did declare the trip, and named the Carphone Warehouse tycoon “Mr David Ross” as the donor for his £15,000 holiday between December 26, 2019, and January 5, 2020.
However, Mr Ross’ spokesman initially denied the claim.
A spokesman told the Daily Mail that the tycoon had “not put his hand in his pocket whatsoever and can obviously prove that — [he] most definitely did not pay anything and it was not his house”.
The spokesman said: “Boris Johnson did not stay in David Ross’ house.
“Boris wanted some help to find somewhere in Mustique, David called the company who run all the villas and somebody had dropped out.”
But, a few hours later, the spokesman issued another statement, which read: “Following media reports I would like to provide further explanation of the benefit in kind Mr Ross provided to Mr Johnson.
“Mr Ross facilitated accommodation for Mr Johnson on Mustique valued at £15,000.
“Therefore this is a kind of benefit in kind from Mr Ross to Mr Johnson, and Mr Johnson’s declaration to the House of Commons is correct.”
An inquiry into this trip is still ongoing 16 months later, although Downing Street maintains that Mr Johnson made all the relevant declarations.
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A Conservative source also alleged that Mr Johnson could be reprimanded for not registering the involvement of The Mustique Company, which owns the island.
This firm levies a 10 percent “island fee” on all rentals for services and facilities, but the Prime Minister’s declaration did not mention this fee.
The source told The Mail: “The issue that is causing concern is not so much over Ross, it is whether The Mustique Company should have been declared as well.”
Boris Johnson: Investigation launched into flat refurbishment
The company’s director of sales, Pippa Ona, said the business did not pay for Mr Johnson’s 10-day trip, but said she had “no idea” who did, and did not share any details about the “island fee”.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves has called for the investigation into the Mustique holiday to be published.
She said: “As sleaze scandal upon scandal unfolds, we need to know where the probe into who paid for the Prime Minister’s luxury Caribbean getaway is.
“This is even more critical given the Prime Minister’s scandalous cover-up of who paid for the Downing Street flat refurbishment. The truth must come out.”
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