Boris Johnson misses deadline to explain relationship with businesswoman
British PM provides requested information to London Assembly amid row over timing
The London Assembly said on Tuesday evening it would pursue its investigation into Mr Johnson after the British prime minister missed the deadline for responding to its request.
However, the prime minister’s response was received about an hour after the deadline.
The request followed reports in the Sunday Times that when Mr Johnson was London mayor he failed to declare close personal links to Ms Arcuri, who received thousands of pounds in public business funding and places on official trade trips.
Mr Johnson had been asked to provide details and a timeline of all contact with Ms Arcuri while he was the mayor. It also asked him to give an explanation of how that relationship was disclosed and taken into account in all dealings with the assembly and related bodies.
The London Assembly is an elected body that scrutinises the activities of the mayor and forms part of the Greater London Authority (GLA), the capital’s devolved regional governance body.
It had given Mr Johnson 14 days to respond to its request for information but that deadline expired at 6pm on Tuesday.
Despite his response, there was a spat between the London Assembly and those close to Mr Johnson over the deadline.
Len Duvall, chair of the London Assembly oversight committee and a member of the opposition Labour Party, had initially criticised Mr Johnson for missing the 6pm limit, warning him that the situation has “now become grave”.
“The allegations of potential misuse of taxpayers’ money are no laughing matter. We will be taking this further.”
A Tory source hit back, saying the deadline was missed because “it was an invented City Hall deadline that they have never said to us”, while criticising London Assembly “grandstanding” and Mr Duvall for “playing politics”.
The GLA said last month it had referred Mr Johnson to Britain’s police watchdog for potential investigation over allegations of misconduct involving Ms Arcuri.
The GLA said the allegations were that Mr Johnson had a friendship with Ms Arcuri and as a result of that friendship allowed her to participate in trade missions and receive sponsorship.
Mr Johnson has said everything was done with full propriety and that there was no interest to declare. When asked for comment on Monday, he said: “I have really said everything I want to say about that.”
Ms Arcuri told an interviewer on Monday: “Boris never ever gave me favouritism, never once did I ask him for a favour, never once did he write a letter of recommendation for me.”
Both she and Mr Johnson have declined to answer questions over whether they had an affair while he was London mayor between 2008 and 2016.
Also on Tuesday, it was reported that Mr Johnson failed to publicly disclose the full extent of his links with Ms Arcuri in his official diary of appointments and activities as mayor of London.
The Guardian revealed that the mayoral diary, released under freedom of information laws, provides a detailed list of thousands of Mr Johnson’s meetings and engagements, from summits with world leaders to mundane listings such as “tea with a tourist”. But in the hundreds of pages of appointments, the diaries contain no public reference to Ms Arcuri.
Ms Arcuri claims she shared a “very close bond” with Mr Johnson and in her first broadcast interview on Monday said that the two held between five and 10 meetings in her flat. But no such meetings were publicly listed by the then mayor. More than 1,300 entries are redacted, citing an exemption for personal information – suggesting Mr Johnson’s liaisons with the businesswoman may have been concealed from public view.
During the lengthy interview with ITV on Monday, Ms Arcuri sought to portray Mr Johnson’s visits to her flat, which she operated as an office, as business meetings. “I think it was normal that he came to my office like many other tech professionals, government officials did,” she said.
However, the mayoral diary makes no mention of any visits to her flat. It only explicitly references Ms Arcuri’s Innotech company twice, despite him speaking at four of the firm’s events.
By contrast, Mr Johnson’s diary includes other meetings with key technology players, including a 2014 meeting with Joanna Shields, the then chairwoman of Tech City – a job Ms Arcuri unsuccessfully applied for, reportedly using Mr Johnson as a reference.
In total, Ms Arcuri’s companies were granted more than £126,000 in public money.
Downing Street declined to answer why Mr Johnson’s meetings with Ms Arcuri were not listed in his diary.
In addition, Number 10 refused to clarify whether any of Mr Johnson’s meetings with Ms Arcuri were among those redacted. – PA/Reuters/Guardian