Labour demands sleaze watchdog investigates Boris Johnson’s luxury holiday funded by Goldsmith family

PM may have broken rules over his free stay at luxury villa in Spain, says opposition

Adam Forrest
Friday 05 November 2021 13:48
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Owen Paterson resigns as MP instead of facing fresh vote on suspension

Labour has asked the parliamentary watchdog at the centre of the “sleaze” storm to investigate whether Boris Johnson failed to properly declare a free holiday funded by the family of Tory peer Zac Goldsmith.

The prime minister has declared his October stay at a luxury villa in Spain in the register of ministerial interests – but Labour say it has not been listed in the register of members’ interests as required.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone to demand a formal probe.

In a letter to the commissioner, Ms Rayner said: “This appears to be a breach of the House code of conduct and the rules relating to the conduct of members regarding the declaration and registration of interests and gifts.”

But Downing Street insisted that the PM had “met transparency requirements”, and there was no need for declarations under the ministerial code to be repeated in the MPs’ register of interest.

Mr Johnson has written to the Commons registrar to make clear he did not intend to add details of the visit on the MP’s register, said a No 10 spokesperson.

And the spokesperson declined to discuss the value of the holiday provided to the PM free by the Goldsmith family.

The rulebook on MPs’ interests sates that members must register any visit outside the UK where the cost is more than £300, unless they have paid the full bill themselves.

But the rules also state that there is no requirement to register “visits wholly unconnected with membership of the House or with the member’s parliamentary or political activities (e.g., family holidays)”.

And they say that ministers do not have to register “donations or other support received in a member’s capacity as a minister, which should be recorded, if necessary, within the relevant government department in accordance with the Ministerial Code.”

Ms Rayner said that under a previous conduct inquiry into the PM’s luxury vacation in Mustique it had been found that “Mr Johnson was required to register the holiday accommodation he received in the register of members’ interests”.

And she added that Mr Johnson “has a long history of breaching the rules in relation to parliamentary standards”, adding: “We cannot have a situation where Boris Johnson behaves like it’s one rule for him and another for everyone else.”

Mr Johnson’s latest update to the register of ministerial interests has revealed that his recent stay in the Marbella villa was funded by the Goldsmith family – but did not say how much it was worth.

It stated: “The prime minister has a longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family and, in that capacity, in October 2021 stayed in a holiday home in southern Spain, which was provided free of charge by the Goldsmiths.”

Asked today why details had not been entered in the Commons register, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “The prime minister received hospitality from long-standing family friends who provided the use of their holiday home.

“In line with the transparency requirements, the PM has declared this arrangement in his ministerial capacity, given this was hospitality that was provided by another minister.

“This was a family holiday at the home of long-standing family, friends and is unconnected with the PM’s parliamentary and political activities.

“The PM has written to the House of Commons registrar to set out that this holiday has been declared under the ministerial code because the arrangement is with another minister.

“Ministerial code declarations fall outside the remit of the House of Commons registrar and parliamentary standards commissioner.”

Liberal Democrat cheif whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “Boris Johnson and the Tories have shown this week they don’t have a shred of integrity left.

”The independent Standards Commissioner should urgently launch an investigation into whether Boris Johnson breached the code of conduct by failing to properly declare his holiday.

”The Tories have shown they can’t be trusted to mark their own homework on this issue. They are now the party of sleaze.”

Mr Johnson’s conduct has come under close scrutiny again following the Owen Paterson debacle, which saw No 10 U-turn on its plan to rewrite disciplinary rules and save the Tory MP from suspension.

The government has denied that the prime minister was attempting to reduce the power of Ms Stone’s office ahead of a potential probe into his flat refurbishment.

The allegation had been made by his former aide Dominic Cummings – who claimed Downing Street was keen to land blows against both Ms Stone’s office and the Electoral Commission.

Mr Johnson has been investigated by the commissioner three times. Most recently, the PM was found by Ms Stone’s office to have broken the rules over declaring his luxury stay in Mustique – but the cross-party standards committee chose not to endorse the finding and cleared him of wrongdoing.

Potentially, Mr Johnson faces a fourth investigation into the initial financing of the lavish refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.

Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge has reported Mr Johnson to the standards commissioner over the matter – but Ms Stone’s office has not yet announced whether it will look into allegations of misconduct.

The Electoral Commission has been investigating the complex financing of the flat refurbishment at Downing Street – which involved a series of payments and repayments.

Tory party chiefs have reported been given the electoral watchdog’s initial findings. It is understood that Ms Stone’s office will wait to hear the Electoral Commission’s findings before deciding whether a further probe is necessary.

Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Friday that it was “absolutely not true” that the prime minister wanted to diminish Ms Stone’s office ahead of a potential probe into his flat makeover.

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