POLITICS
28/05/2021 15:28 BST | Updated 28/05/2021 15:50 BST

Tory Donor And Party Initially Paid For Boris Johnson’s Flat Refurb, Official Probe Finds

The PM only covered the cost following media reports on “wallpapergate”, but he was cleared of breaking the ministerial code.

The Conservative Party and one of its donors initially paid the costs of refurbishing Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat, an official probe has found.

Work began on the No.11 flat the prime minister shares with Carrie Symonds when he was in hospital with Covid in April 2020, with the final bill reportedly amounting to tens of thousands of pounds.

The first round of invoices were paid for by the taxpayer, through the Cabinet Office, and then charged to the Conservative Party in June 2020, according to the independent adviser on ministerial interests, Lord Geidt.

Tory donor Lord Brownlow, who had been appointed to set up a Downing Street trust to cover the costs, then personally paid another bill for the refurbishment directly to the supplier in October that year.

Throughout this time, Johnson believed that a Downing Street trust was being set up to cover the costs, to be chaired by Brownlow, but in autumn last year it appeared that this was “still likely to be many months off”, Geidt said.

There was “no evidence” to suggest that Johnson was aware of who was paying for the refurbishment.

But when reports started appearing in the media in February 2021 about the work, the PM took advice about his ministerial interests and settled the cost on March 8.

Geidt said the PM was nevertheless “unwise” to allow the refurbishment of the flat to proceed “without more rigorous regard for how this would be funded”.

But the adviser said Johnson had not broken the ministerial code, because no conflict of interest arose from the affair, Geidt said.

Geidt went on: “In respect of the Conservative Party, because of the strong connection between them and the prime minister, I do not believe that such support would put the prime minister under any different obligation to the relationship he already has as leader of the party.

“In respect of Lord Brownlow, as a member of the House of Lords his interests are set out publicly and there is no evidence that he acted with anything other than altruistic and philanthropic motives.”

A No 10 spokesperson said: “Lord Geidt’s independent report shows the prime minister acted in accordance with the ministerial code at all times.

“The prime minister has made a declaration in his list of ministerial interests, as advised by Lord Geidt.

“Cabinet Office officials were engaged and informed throughout and official advice was followed.

“Other than works funded through the annual allowance, the costs of the wider refurbishment of the flat are not being financed by taxpayers and have been settled by the prime minister personally.”