Labour demands full details of Downing Street flat renovations

Labour demands full details of Downing Street flat renovations
Party warns public cannot have faith in the system

Labour have written to Boris Johnson‘s sleaze watchdog challenging his decision to clear the prime minister of breaking the rules over his lavish Downing Street flat refurbishment.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner called on Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministersinterests, to publish the full details of the renovation.

The public cannot have faith in the system of registering and declaring ministerial interests when these interests, debts and payments have still not been declared,” she told him.

Yesterday Lord Geidt, who was appointed by the prime minister, said Mr Johnson hadunwiselyallowed the work on his apartment to go ahead withoutmore rigorous regard for how this would be funded”.

But he cleared the Conservative leader of breaching the rules.

Reports suggest the renovations to No 11 Downing Street, where Mr Johnson lives with his fiancee Carrie Symonds, cost up to £200,000.

There had been discussions around the creation of a Downing Street Trust, modelled on the White House system, which would pay for such work, Lord Geidt found, however legal advice last year cast doubt on whether it could cover private residences.

In his inquiry, Lord Geidt said Mr Johnson had been unaware that in lieu of such a trust being set up, the Tory donor Lord Brownlow had settled the bill.

In her letter Ms Rayner challenges how Lord Geidt reached his conclusion and called for full transparency.

Questioning how no potential conflict of interest had been found, she said the public wouldlegitimately and reasonably assume that the Prime Ministeror indeed anybodybecoming indebted by a sum of tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds would, or could at least be perceived, to have an obligation to the individual or institution doing them a financial favour”.

In her letter, she also criticised the decision not to publish some details deemedno longer current”, saying the prime minister himself created a delay by not publishing the list of ministersinterests.

She told Lord Geidt: “This cannot therefore be used as a justification to not publish this interest.

Will you now publish this interest, all the details relating to this interest and these payments, and any correspondence related to this interest and these payments immediately?

She added that it isstaggering” en “frankly scarcely believable that the Prime Minister apparently had no idea about who was funding work that cost tens or even thousands of pounds”.

The report into the flat was published alongside the much-delayed register of ministerial interests.

Ms Rayner said: “I am certain that there will be nobody else in the country who will have had building work carried out in their residence and not know, or even seek to find out, who was paying for it.

Lord Geidt’s report said that by the late autumn of 2020, it was apparent establishing a new trust was still likely to be many months off and in October Lord Brownlow told Cabinet Office officials he had settled an invoice for the works on the flat directly with the supplier.

Lord Geidt saidthe Prime Minister, unwisely, in my view, allowed the refurbishment of the apartment at No 11 Downing Street to proceed without more rigorous regard for how this would be funded”.

But he said the PM knewnothing aboutpayments for the refurbishment work, which started while he was in hospital with coronavirus, until reports in the media surfaced in February 2021.

At that point, the Prime Minister immediately sought the necessary advice about his interests and, as a consequence, settled the full amount himself on March 8 2021.”

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