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‘Nothing untoward’ about Boris Johnson discussions with donor, minister says

‘Nothing untoward’ about Boris Johnson discussions with donor, minister says
Labour has called for a new investigation into the revelations

Det er “nothing untowardabout Boris Johnson discussing policy with a Tory donor who pair for his flat refurb, a government minister has said.

Arbeid has called for a new standards commissioner investigation into the prime minister after text messages emerged between him and Lord Brownlow.

The conversations show the PM called parts of his Downing Street residence a “tip” and promised to look into the donor’s proposal for agreat exhibitionwhile negotiating payments for the refurb.

Mr Johnson on Thursday apologised for not giving the texts to his independent ethics advisor during the course of a previous probe – as opposition deputy chief Angela Rayner called for a fresh inquiry.

In a media appearance on Friday morning business minister Paul Scully was asked whether the conversation amounted to corruption.

“Ministers get proposals all the time and what rightly happened was that this got pushed on to the Culture, Media and Sport Department (DCMS) where it sits,” Mr Scully told Times Radio.

“Lord Brownlow made his own approaches and it wouldn’t have just gone to the Prime Minister, but the important thing is it’s not gone ahead… so there’s nothing untoward that’s happening out of, du vet, a few lines in a WhatsApp.”

Labour meanwhile said “cosy text messages” between Mr Johnson and Lord Brownlow raised questions about “cash for access”.

The party has said Commons Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone should investigate.

Steve Reed, the shadow justice secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “They matter immensely because Lord Brownlow appears to have access to the Prime Minister because he was paying for the flat renovations.

“If that is the case, that is corruption. And what we’re seeing here is a case of potentially cash for access where Lord Brownlow was given access to ministers to try and influence them over decisions of spending taxpayers’ money – that is why this matters so immensely.

“Those very cosy text messages show there was a quid pro quo in operation between the Prime Minister and Lord Brownlow, and we need to get to the absolute bottom of this.”

Asked whether it is still a problem as the Great Exhibition was not given the go-ahead, Mr Reed replied: “The issue is not whether it happened, it is whether rich people can pay to get access to Government ministers to try and influence them over how they decide to spend taxpayers’ money.”

Seinere, Nei 10 attempted to insist the referral of Lord Brownlow’s suggestion of a “Great Exhibition” to the culture department was “normal practice” and “quite usual”.

“It’s routine that when proposals are put to departments that departments take them forward,” the prime minister’s spokesperson said, emphasising the Great Exhibition proposal “wasn’t taken forward”.

The spokesperson said it was “quite usual when any suggestion such as this are put forward it’s right they are passed on to relevant department to take forward and as you’re aware Oliver Dowden met with Lord Brownlow at the Royal Albert Hall on the joint proposal — declared in the regular DCMS transparency returns”.

De la til: “As I say, it is normal practice that when an idea or proposal is put to the prime minister, it is referred to the relevant departments to take forward, and in this case the decision was taken not to take this any further.”

Asked whether Boris Johnson had a role in setting up the meeting, the spokesman said it “would have been referred to DCMS through the usual official channels”.

The spokesman added the Tory peer’s suggestion was “dealt with in the same way” as a member of the public’s would have been “in that a department will look at it and take a view on it”.

Quizzed on why the Great Exhibition 2.0 idea was turned down, the No 10 official replied: “We’ve taken forward the idea of Festival UK and Unboxed 2022, which you can see all the details off on the website and is available for everybody to see. We went with that, which we confirmed in 2018 and was set out in the manifesto in 2019.”