Ethics watchdog clears Boris Johnson over Mustique holiday

But PM draws fire for “unusual” funding arrangements and slow approach to answering queries

By John Johnston

08 Jul 2021

Parliament’s Standards Committee has cleared Boris Johnson of breaking the MPs’ code of conduct over a Christmas holiday in the Caribbean.

The parliamentary standards committee had launched the probe in May to investigate his stay in a villa in Mustique over Christmas 2019 after questions were raised about the funding arrangements.

The ten day trip, which Johnson took with then-fiancée Carrie Symonds, reportedly cost around £15,000.

The PM claimed at the time the cost of the villa had been paid by Tory party donor David Ross, who owns property on the island.

Ross later denied having paid for the trip and insisted he did not own the villa in which Johnson and Symonds had stayed, instead claiming he had helped facilitate the trip but did not reveal who had funded the getaway.

But in a report on Thursday, the committee concluded Johnson had made an “accurate and complete” declaration of the “informal” funding arrangements, saying they were satisfied Ross had funded the trip despite the PM not staying in his villa.

“We conclude that Mr Ross was the donor of Mr Johnson's holiday accommodation, through an informal arrangement with the Mustique company, whereby the Mustique company paid the Richardsons for Mr Johnson's stay and Mr Ross would provide his villa, to the Mustique company for free in recompense,” the report said.

“We therefore find that Mr. Johnson's register entries, accurate and complete. And we find no breach by Mr Johnson at paragraph 14 of the code.”

But the ethics watchdog also hit out at the prime minister over his behaviour during the investigation saying the matter “could have been concluded many months ago if more strenuous efforts had been made to dispel the uncertainty”.

“By Mr Johnson's and Mr Ross's own admission, the arrangements for funding Mr Johnson's holiday accommodation were ad hoc and informal, and do not appear to have been fully explained to Mr Johnson at the outset,” they said.

They also suggested that the PM was not aware of the “opaque” funding arrangements until he arrived on the island and discovered he would not be staying in Ross's villa.

“It is unsatisfactory that neither Mr Ross nor Mr Johnson explained the arrangements to the commissioner until last autumn and that Mr Ross only provided minimal information on the arrangement this Spring and in response to our own enquiries,” they said.

“Mr Johnson has stated himself that this is regrettable that information has been provided to the commissioner in stages.”

They added: “Given that Mr Johnson was twice reprimanded by our predecessor committee in the last parliament in the space of four months for an over casual attitude towards obeying the rules of the house, we would have expected him to have gone the extra mile to ensure there was no uncertainty about the arrangements.”

John Johnston is a political reporter for CSW’s sister title Politics Home, where a version of this story first appeared

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