PM ‘set to be cleared’ of misleading independent adviser over flat refurb

Johnson failed to tell Christopher Geidt about messages with Tory donor who part-funded Downing Street work
Lord Geidt giving evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in May 2021

By Tevye Markson

04 Jan 2022

Boris Johnson’s independent standards adviser is reportedly set to clear the prime minister of misleading him over the funding of refurbishments to his Downing Street flat.

Lord Christopher Geidt, the PM’s adviser on ministerial interests, published his initial report into the flat refurbishment in May, finding Johnson had not broken the ministerial code over donor payments.

But while his investigation found Johnson was unaware of a Tory peer’s payment towards the renovations, a report by the Electoral Commission, published last month, showed the prime minister had contacted the Tory donor.

Geidt sought an explanation from Johnson but is set to once again clear the PM of wrongdoing, according to the Financial Times.

The investigations from Geidt and the Electoral Commission looked into claims Tory peer Lord David Brownlow made payments towards refurbishments to the No. 11 flat.

Brownlow made a £58,000 donation to the Conservative Party towards the works but the Electoral Commission found it was not declared properly and fined the party £17,800.

Johnson had assured Lord Geidt he knew nothing about payments made towards the refurbishment by Lord Brownlow until February 2021.

But the Electoral Commission’s investigation said it had seen a WhatsApp message showing Johnson was in direct contact with Brownlow in November 2020 about the flat refurbishment.

Geidt has reportedly exchanged several letters with the prime minister that could be published soon and which are set to criticise Johnson’s behaviour but not go any further, according to the FT.

It said Geidt had described the situation to colleagues as “deeply unsatisfactory” but would not change his ruling that Johnson had not broken the ministerial code.

Alongside the investigations into potential wrongdoing over the flat refurbishment, the government is also awaiting the results of an inquiry into whether Covid rules were broken at events organised for government staff in the lead up to Christmas in 2020.

Cabinet secretary Simon Case is no longer leading the investigation into parties that allegedly took place in Downing Street and other government buildings, after it emerged that an event was held by his own private office.

Case recused himself from the investigation, according to a spokesperson for No.10, “to ensure that [it] retains public confidence”.

Sue Gray, former head of the Cabinet Office propriety and ethics team, has taken over the investigation and will “ascertain the facts and present her findings to the prime minister”.

Gray is now second permanent secretary at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

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