A Tory peer and party donor paid for the lavish refurbishments to Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat last year, a report into ministers’ financial interests has said – but the prime minister was not initially informed.
The long-delayed judgement said a “significant failing” had taken place, adding that Johnson himself was unwise not to properly scrutinise how the works were paid for, Lord Geidt – the new independent adviser on ministers’ interests – said.
However, despite David Brownlow’s status as an existing party donor, Lord Geidt said he was satisfied that “no conflict (or reasonably perceived conflict) arises as a result of these interests”.
The interests have now been properly declared by Johnson, he added. But, hitting out at the prime minister, he said: “The prime minister – unwisely, in my view – allowed the refurbishment of the apartment at No 11 Downing Street to proceed without more rigorous regard for how this would be funded.”
Lord Brownlow settled the invoice – it is unclear for how much – on 19 October 2020, and told Cabinet Office officials the next day, the report found.
It continues: “Cabinet Office officials appear not to have acted on this information to the extent of informing the prime minister, let alone offering him advice on his private interests.”
Confusion seemingly emerged because of attempts to pay for the work through a trust, which was difficult to establishment.
The list of ministerial interests is usually updated every six months, but the previous version was published as long ago as last July. The gap created significant interest because of ongoing questions about Johnson’s money issues.
With particular scrutiny falling on Johnson’s refurbishment of his personal flat above 11 Downing Street, the prime minister’s spokesperson repeatedly insisted that he had “met the cost” of any work – refusing to say if someone else footed the bill.
The Electoral Commission last month launched a formal investigation into how the work was paid for, adding that there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect offences may have been committed.