Dyson lobbying row: Government ministers do what Boris Johnson did ‘all the time’, says minister

Prime minister agreed to ‘fix’ tax issue for industrialist

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Friday 23 April 2021 08:52
<p>Boris Johnson agreed to ‘fix’ a tax issue for the industrialist</p>

Boris Johnson agreed to ‘fix’ a tax issue for the industrialist

A government minister has downplayed Boris Johnson's response to lobbying by billionaire James Dyson by claiming her colleagues do similar things "all the time".

Caroline Dinenage defended her boss Boris Johnson, whose text messages with the Brexit-supporting industrialist are now subject of an internal inquiry.

Sir James, a prominent business ally of Mr Johnson, had asked the prime minister to personally "fix" an issue with the tax status of Dyson staff working in the UK on ventilators.

"We don't hand out our mobile numbers willy-nilly but government ministers do have to engage with businesses all the time," Ms Dinenage, the digital minister told Times Radio.

"We engage with charities all the time, we engage with unions all the time.

"The key thing is that we follow the process, we pass anything like that on to the civil service team to take forward. There are very clear rules and that's what we all do."

Meanwhile Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the commons liaison committee, rejected calls to launch his own inquiry into the prime minister's conduct.

"The Liaison Committee doesn't have the remit to carry out its own inquiries," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"The select committees themselves don't much like the Liaison Committee interfering in their inquiries. There are a very comprehensive set of inquiries in progress and they are co-ordinating effectively together."

Labour says the revelations about Mr Johnson's contact with the industrialist are part of a pattern of government "sleaze" and cronyism.

The prime minister this week refused to apologise over the revelations.

But Sir Bernard leapt to his party leader’s aid and said ministers should not be "locked away in ivory towers" with people unable to contact them.

"The Government is now under intense scrutiny - every meeting, every conversation that ministers have had with their officials," the Conservative MP said.

"What's got to come out of this is obviously a system of managing conflicts of interest, which commands more public confidence, and is more rigorous, but also, a balance, there has to be a balance.

"We don't want ministers to be locked away in ivory towers, out of touch with the real world, with people unable to contact them.

"It is going to stifle proper conversation within government departments if all this is effectively a public conversation. Ministers and officials have got to be able to discuss policy options in private."

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