Conservative Party donor paid for costly refurbishment of Boris Johnson's Downing Street home

UK Prime Minister was initially unaware someone else had settled invoice for redecoration, report finds

A report published on Friday cleared UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson of a conflict of interest and breaching the ministerial code. Reuters
A report published on Friday cleared UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson of a conflict of interest and breaching the ministerial code. Reuters

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted “unwisely” when he allowed a costly refurbishment of his Downing Street residence, a project that was initially paid for by a political donor, an official report said on Friday.

Mr Johnson faced intense media scrutiny over how the refurbishment, which reportedly cost in the region of £200,000 ($284,000), was financed.

On Friday the independent adviser on ministers’ interests, Christopher Geidt, published a report into the issue which cleared the prime minister of a conflict of interest or of breaching the ministerial code.

But the report was nevertheless critical of Mr Johnson.

“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,” the report said.

It found that a Tory Party donor, David Brownlow, had settled an invoice for some of the refurbishment cost, but said Mr Johnson was unaware of this and later settled the full amount himself when he found out via media reports.

Mr Geidt said no conflict of interest had arisen.

“I have considered the nature of that support and am content that no conflict (or reasonably perceived conflict) arises as a result of these interests,” the report said.

“Having advised that the interests declared by the prime minister present no actual or perceived conflict, I consider them to be consistent with the provisions of the ministerial code.”

A breach of the ministerial code could have forced Mr Johnson to resign.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson’s office said: “Other than works funded through the annual allowance, the costs of the wider refurbishment of the flat are not being financed by taxpayers and have been settled by the prime minister personally.”

Separately, Britain’s Electoral Commission has launched an investigation into the funding of work on the prime minister’s apartment, saying there were grounds to suspect an offence had been committed.

Mr Geidt’s report also said that Health Secretary Matt Hancock had committed a “minor breach” of the ministerial code by failing to declare a shareholding in a company when it received a contract from the National Health Service.

Updated: May 29, 2021 09:48 PM

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