Pressure mounts on Boris Johnson over funding of flat refurbishment

Dominic Cummings claims prime minister proposed having Tory donors secretly pay

UK prime minister Boris Johnson and his former special adviser Dominic Cummings. File photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty

UK prime minister Boris Johnson and his former special adviser Dominic Cummings. File photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty

 

Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to give full details of how the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat was funded, after former aide Dominic Cummings suggested the prime minister may have acted illegally.

Labour has called for a minister to come before parliament on Monday to answer questions about whether a Conservative donor was involved in paying for the renovation.

The government said on Friday that Mr Johnson paid the bill of almost £60,000 (€69,000) himself but a senior minister on Sunday would not say whether a party donor put up the money first.

“My understanding is the costs have been covered by the prime minister and everything has been fully declared by the rules,” international trade secretary Liz Truss told the BBC.

The prime minister receives an allowance of £30,000 to refurbish the flat above 11 Downing Street where he lives with his fiancee Carrie Symonds and their son, Wilfred. But the renovations last year are understood to have cost tens of thousands of pounds more than that.

‘Possibly illegal’

In a statement last Friday, Mr Cummings said Mr Johnson proposed to have donors secretly pay for the renovations, a plan the former aide said he told him was “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations”. Opposition parties want Mr Johnson to disclose whether a donor did initially pay the bill before the payment was later reversed and made instead by the prime minister himself.

“We want the Election Commission to look at the prime minister’s undisclosed donations that are estimated about £200,000 for his private flat. And that’s absolutely right and the prime minister needs to answer that,” Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said.

“The issues that we have seen with ministers over the last couple of months has really undermined the institution of government and there are serious questions now the Conservatives need to answer. These are serious allegations and we think the prime minister should come to the House of Commons on Monday and should declare the ministers’ register of interests, which is eight months in delay. The problem is the government is hiding.” 

Leaking inquiry

Mr Cummings also alleged that the prime minister wanted to halt an inquiry into the leaking of plans for a lockdown last November, after the investigation started to close in on Henry Newman, a senior official who is a close friend of Ms Symonds. Downing Street claims that Mr Cummings was the source of the leak, although it says the investigation is still under way.

Cabinet secretary Simon Case, who initiated the investigation, will appear before a committee of MPs on Monday to answer questions about the leak. Mr Cummings claims that Mr Case concluded that he was not the source of the leak and authorised the prime minister’s official spokesman to brief journalists to that effect.

Labour is also calling for an investigation into the award of contracts for coronavirus personal protective equipment to Conservative donors and friends of government ministers.