Sleaze watchdog urged to investigate Boris Johnson's luxury Caribbean new year holiday

Prime minister accused after apparently taking advantage of a timeshare arrangement – thanks to a billionaire Tory donor

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 13 February 2020 19:30 GMT
Emily Thornberry says Boris Johnson is 'sunning himself, drinking vodka martinis and not paying attention' to Iran crisis

The Commons sleaze watchdog has been urged to investigate Boris Johnson’s luxury Caribbean new year holiday, as it emerged that he may have taken advantage of a timeshare-style arrangement.

Labour called on the parliamentary commissioner for standards to step in after the prime minister registered the holiday as a £15,000 gift from a Tory donor – only for the donor to deny stumping up any money.

David Ross, who co-founded the Carphone Warehouse chain, then sought to clarify the gift as “a benefit in kind” because he had “facilitated accommodation” for Mr Johnson and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds.

A government source suggested that the businessman had been due to occupy the villa on the island of Mustique but then agreed to make it available for their 10-day stay.

Until his declaration in the Commons register, it was assumed that Mr Johnson, who previously earned as much as £275,000 a year for his newspaper columns, had paid for the holiday himself.

No 10 brushed off questions about why the prime minister had not simply reimbursed Mr Ross and avoided the controversy altogether.

Jon Trickett, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said the public had a right to know whether the prime minister could “knowingly make a false entry into the register”.

“Transparency is crucial to ensuring the public have confidence that elected members of this house have not been unduly influenced by any donations or gifts that they may receive,” his letter to the commissioner said.

“For this reason, I request that you investigate whether the prime minister has followed all transparency requirements when registering the donation.”

Mr Johnson’s spokesperson said: “The relevant transparency requirements have been met as set out in the register of financial interests. This is a benefit in kind from David Ross.

“The Cabinet Office are aware of the declaration and are content that it is appropriate.”

A No 10 source argued that Labour’s protest was “out of date” after the second statement from Mr Ross, who worked with Mr Johnson in his time as London mayor.

Mr Ross was forced to quit as deputy chair of Carphone Warehouse, and from his City Hall role, after failing to disclose that he had used his shares in the business as security for a multi-million-pound loan.

A former tax exile and friend of David Cameron, with a fortune estimated at £1bn, Mr Ross has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservative Party.

Mr Johnson’s holiday had already attracted criticism because it broke with the practice of his two Tory predecessors, Theresa May and Mr Cameron, who shunned luxury breaks in favour of trips of a more modest nature in the UK and Europe.

Labour accused him of “sunning himself and drinking vodka martinis” instead of returning home to deal with the crisis over the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani after Christmas, when Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, was left to chair three emergency meetings.

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