SIMON WALTERS: Boris Johnson's finances are as orderly as his hair
SIMON WALTERS: Boris Johnson’s personal finances? They’re as orderly as his hair
The decision by the Commons Committee on Standards is a relief for Boris Johnson – and a victory over Westminster’s ‘sleazebuster’ Kathryn Stone.
Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Miss Stone, who had investigated the Prime Minister’s 2019 holiday with then-fiancee Carrie Symonds to the Caribbean island, had ruled that Boris broke the rules that say MPs must ‘conscientiously fulfil’ their duty to declare all financial interests.
Boris refused to accept her verdict.
And now the committee, made up of MPs and independent lay members, and which has the final say on such matters, has sided with him, saying his account of who paid for the trip was ‘accurate and complete’.
The Daily Mail disclosed in May how Miss Stone and Mr Johnson were engaged in a fierce behind-the-scenes battle over the holiday.
Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone, who had investigated the Prime Minister’s 2019 holiday with then-fiancee Carrie Symonds to Mustique, had ruled that Boris broke the rules that say MPs must ‘conscientiously fulfil’ their duty to declare all financial interests. Above: Mr Johnson on holiday in 2008
Information obtained by this newspaper showed that the commissioner had told the Prime Minister that the luxury winter break was worth more than double the £15,000 he had declared in the Commons register.
Nor did Miss Stone believe, as Mr Johnson had claimed, that the bill had been met by Tory donor and Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross.
And he had failed to meet his duty to the Parliamentary code of conduct by disclosing financial interests, she said.
In robust exchanges with Miss Stone, Mr Johnson categorically denied any wrongdoing and claimed he secured the villa as a late booking for a heavily discounted £15,000.
He said confusion over who paid the bill and whose villa he stayed in arose from the fact Mustique villas were like Costa Brava ‘time shares’.
If the committee had backed Miss Stone, Mr Johnson would have faced the humiliation of being suspended as an MP.
Information obtained by this newspaper showed that the commissioner had told the Prime Minister that the luxury winter break was worth more than double the £15,000 he had declared in the Commons register. Above: Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie during the trip
But it rejected her claim that he had broken Parliamentary rules and instead gave him a rap over the knuckles for not explaining more promptly how the trip was funded.
It is his second narrow escape in just two months over allegations of financial wrongdoing.
In May, a separate investigation into who paid for the makeover of the Downing Street flat he now shares with wife Carrie found there was no conflict of interest.
However, Lord Geidt, the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial standards, said he had behaved ‘unwisely’ in letting the refurbishment go ahead without checking who was footing the bill.
It is an almost identical outcome to this week’s Mustique inquiry – and consistent with Mr Johnson’s patchy record on such matters.
Despite his fierce intellect he is famously disorganised.
In robust exchanges with Miss Stone, Mr Johnson categorically denied any wrongdoing and claimed he secured the villa as a late booking for a heavily discounted £15,000. Above: The villa where Mr Johnson is believed to have stayed
Though he has earned a fortune from his writing and enjoys a £170,000 prime ministerial salary, his approach to his personal finances is about as orderly as his hairstyle.
In 2018 he was forced to apologise to MPs for failing to declare more than £52,000 in income after the Standards Committee said he displayed an ‘over-casual attitude’ to the rules.
Accused of late declarations in the Commons register on nine occasions, Miss Stone said it indicated a ‘lack of attention, rather than inadvertent error’.
Her verdict on his Mustique holiday suggests she is no longer prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Fortunately for Mr Johnson, the Parliamentary committee has been more forgiving.
His consistently high popularity ratings show most voters take a similarly generous view towards his personal conduct.
But with growing public complaints about a Government where there is ‘one rule for them and another for everyone else,’ the Prime Minister will need to be more careful in future.
Boris gets away with his freebie getaway
By John Stevens, Deputy Political Editor for the Daily Mail
Boris Johnson has been criticised by Parliament’s sleaze watchdog for failing to explain promptly how a £15,000 holiday in Mustique was paid for.
The Prime Minister was found by the Commons Standards Commissioner to have breached the code of conduct over the 2020 New Year break.
But he escaped with a slap on the wrist yesterday as the Committee on Standards overruled her findings.
The committee – made up of MPs and members of the public – said it was nevertheless ‘regrettable’ that a full explanation of the situation was not provided long ago.
An inquiry began in February last year after the Daily Mail revealed there were questions over who paid for the PM’s ten-day stay on the luxury Caribbean island with his now wife Carrie.
He had claimed the £15,000 cost of his accommodation had been a gift from Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross.
Boris Johnson has been criticised by Parliament’s sleaze watchdog for failing to explain promptly how a £15,000 holiday in Mustique was paid for. The Prime Minister was found by the Commons Standards Commissioner to have breached the code of conduct over the 2020 New Year break
But the multimillionaire businessman told the Daily Mail he did not own the villa and had not paid for it use.
Following an investigation lasting longer than a year, Commons Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone found Mr Johnson breached the MPs’ code by having not ‘fulfilled conscientiously’ the requirements for registering the stay.
In her findings, made public yesterday, she said it had been ‘unusually difficult to find the facts’ about the holiday between December 26 2019 and January 5 last year.
The commissioner said of the Prime Minister: ‘Because he did not make sufficient inquiries to establish the full facts about the funding arrangements for his free accommodation, either before his holiday, as he should have done, or in 2020, I find that Mr Johnson has not fulfilled conscientiously the House’s requirements for registration.’
This was in breach of the code of conduct, she said, adding: ‘I also find that Mr Johnson has not shown the accountability required of those in public life.’
After the committee received the commissioner’s report, its chairman Labour MP Chris Bryant wrote to Mr Johnson and Mr Ross demanding more information.
Their replies revealed an ‘ad hoc arrangement’ under which the Mustique Company paid the owners of the villa Mr Johnson stayed in and Mr Ross reimbursed them.
Taking this into account, the committee concluded Mr Ross was the donor of Mr Johnson’s accommodation, meaning the PM’s initial declaration had been accurate.
In its report yesterday, it said: ‘This matter could have been concluded many months ago if more strenuous efforts had been made to dispel the uncertainty.’
The committee said that given Mr Johnson had twice before been reprimanded by them they would have expected him ‘to have gone the extra mile to ensure there was no uncertainty.’
The finding came after ministerial standards adviser Lord Geidt found Mr Johnson acted ‘unwisely’ in allowing the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat without ‘more rigorous regard for how this would be funded’.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: ‘This whole murky affair shows Boris Johnson has a casual relationship with the truth and a flagrant disregard for the most basic standards of integrity and trustworthiness.’
Mr Johnson yesterday said he had not seen the report, but added: ‘As I understand it, the committee has found there was no case to answer.’
- Jeremy Corbyn is under investigation by the Standards Commissioner over allegations he did not properly declare financial support given to him for legal disputes involving anti-Semitism.
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