Boris Johnson used £2.6m Downing Street briefing room to watch new James Bond film

No 10 admits that ‘No Time to Die’ was screened for prime minister and staff, after criticism of cost of refit

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Friday 22 October 2021 19:04
Comments
<p>The No 9 briefing room has been unavailable for the last two days for unspecified ‘events’ </p>

The No 9 briefing room has been unavailable for the last two days for unspecified ‘events’

Boris Johnson used the £2.6m Downing Street briefing room for a private screening of the new James Bond film, No 10 has admitted.

The government has been under fire for spending millions on fitting out the room only to scrap plans for the White House-style press conferences that were to be held in it.

Instead, the room is used for twice-daily briefings with political journalists, but has been unavailable for the last two days for unspecified “events”.

At first Mr Johnson’s spokesperson would not confirm that No Time to Die was screened there last night for the prime minister and his staff, as The Times reported, saying he did not know the nature of the event that took place.

Later, a No 10 spokesperson said: “Yesterday, the prime minister met with Pinewood Studios, Universal Pictures, Eon Productions and the BFI to congratulate them on the success of the latest James Bond instalment – a testament to the talent of British creative industry.

“An evening film screening took place for staff, who made voluntary donations, with all proceeds going to Sarcoma UK [a cancer charity].” Installation costs were said to have been paid by the companies involved.

The plan for televised press conferences was scrapped six months ago, after No 10 got cold feet over the prospect of the prime minister’s spokesperson facing an intensive grilling from reporters.

Labour accused Mr Johnson of a “vanity project” in creating the room, but the government argued it needed a “modern press facility”, and it did stage a media briefing by health secretary Sajid Javid this week.

The cost of the refit of No 9 Downing Street was revealed to be £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT, after a Freedom of Information request.

The bill included £1,848,695 for the “main works”, £198,024 on “long lead items”, and £33,395 on broadband equipment.

Allegra Stratton was due to front the televised briefings, but was instead handed the job of government spokesperson for the Cop26 climate summit.

While the briefing room was being used for “events”, the prime minister’s spokesperson has held briefings, without cameras, in No 10 instead.

The culture secretary during the fitting out of the new facility, Oliver Dowden, insisted that the venue was “not a waste of money” because the room previously used for press conferences was too small and “not fit for purpose”.

The “modern press facility” was similar to those used by other leaders around the world and would be available for future governments, not just the current one, he said.

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