The government’s new standards adviser today slammed ‘significant failings’ over the £90,000 No11 flat refurbishment – but cleared
Lord Geidt criticised the handling of a planned trust to fund the overhaul of the grace and favour flat where the PM lives with fiancee Carrie and their son Wilf, saying it was not subject to ‘rigorous project management by officials’.
He also painted a picture of Mr Johnson not being engaged with what was happening on the project, suggesting he had little clue how it was being funded and was ‘unwise’ not to keep closer control.
In a long-awaited report to accompany the latest register of interests, the peer said the civil service should have been across the detail of the plans.
‘Given the level of the Prime Minister’s expectations for the Trust to deliver on the objects he had set, this was a significant failing,’ Lord Geidt wrote.
‘Instead, the Prime Minister – unwisely, in my view – allowed the refurbishment of the apartment at No 11
However, the new adviser on ministerial interests said the trust was a ‘genuine endeavour’.
Ordering a note to be added to the latest register of interests, he said that the financial arrangements ‘present no actual or perceived conflict’.
‘I consider them to be consistent with the provisions of the Ministerial Code,’ he added.
The relatively mild findings will be a relief to Mr Johnson and his aides, after the long-running saga over the lavish refurb. However, separate probes by the Electoral Commission and standards commissioner are ongoing.
And Mr Johnson has ended up personally footing a large bill, amid persisted – but hotly disputed – rumours about his finances being under strain.
No10 stressed that Mr Johnson has now paid for the No11 works himself beyond the £30,000 annual allowance for upkeep from the taxpayer and had always tried to ‘minimise the costs’ for the public.
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘Lord Geidt’s independent report shows the Prime Minister acted in accordance with the Ministerial Code at all times.
‘The Prime Minister has made a declaration in his List of Ministerial Interests, as advised by Lord Geidt.
‘Cabinet Office officials were engaged and informed throughout and official advice was followed.
‘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.’
The PM and Carrie Symonds face the prospect of handing over emails and phone messages in a separate investigation by the Electoral Commission
The government’s new standards adviser today slammed ‘significant failings’ over the No11 flat refurbishment – but cleared Boris Johnson (pictured) of breaking the ministerial code
Pictured: A design by Lulu Lytle, who is believed to have carried out the refurbishment
Lord Christopher Geidt, a former aide to the Queen, was installed as the new adviser on ministerial interests a month ago
New adviser was Queen’s right-hand man for a decade
The PM’s new adviser on ministerial interests spent 10 years as the Queen’s right hand man.
Lord Geidt served as the monarch’s Private Secretary until 2017 – a role that requires the utmost discretion.
He was widely regarded as one of her most invaluable aides.
On stepping down from the prestigious post, he was elevated to the Lords in a sign of the high esteem in which he was held.
He sits as a cross-bencher, meaning he does not align with any particular political party.
Alongside his part-time role with No10, Lord Geidt is Chairman of King’s College London – where he once studied – and chairman for International Relations and Corporate Responsibility at Schroders plc.
The row was sparked by a string of revelations in the Mail over the £58,000 cost overrun being originally paid by the Conservative Party before being covered by Tory donor Lord Brownlow.
PMs have an annual allowance for improvements to their residence, and sources told MailOnline that the £30,000 available for 2020-21 was the only public funding used for the refurb.
Lord Geidt – former private secretary to
The post had been vacant since Sir Alex Allan resigned in November in response to Mr Johnson standing by Priti Patel, despite an investigation finding the Home Secretary’s conduct ‘amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying’.
Lord Geidt found the PM knew ‘nothing about’ payments for the refurbishment work until reports in the media surfaced.
He said: ‘I have also spoken … to the Prime Minister who confirms that he knew nothing about such payments (made by Tory donor Lord Brownlow) until immediately prior to media reports in February 2021.
‘At that point, the Prime Minister immediately sought the necessary advice about his interests and, as a consequence, settled the full amount himself on March 8 2021.’
The peer said discussions about a Downing Street Trust being set up to pay for the work had been held, but legal advice received in June 2020 ‘raised doubts’ about whether such a body ‘would be capable of dealing with costs associated with the private residences’.
‘By the late autumn of 2020, it was apparent that a trust capable of meeting the original objects (including the costs of refurbishing the No 11 Downing Street residence) was still likely to be many months off,’ the adviser said.
‘On October 20 2020, Lord Brownlow confirmed to Cabinet Office officials, including by subsequently ensuring that the minutes properly recorded the fact, that he had the day before settled an invoice for the No 11 Downing Street residence refurbishment works directly with the supplier.
‘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.
‘Moreover, despite the Prime Minister and Lord Brownlow having some limited contact during the following three months, the record shows no evidence that the Prime Minister had been informed by Lord Brownlow that he had personally settled the total costs.’
The 10-page report concluded there was ‘no conflict’ even though an interest did arise for Mr Johnson.
‘In respect of the interests arising as a result of these events, I advise that an interest did arise in his capacity as a Minister of the Crown,’ he said.
‘This is as a result of the support provided by Conservative campaign headquarters and by Lord Brownlow to the Prime Minister.
‘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.
‘These interests have been properly declared to me by the Prime Minister.’
He said Cabinet Secretary Simon Case had, as part of the review, acknowledged the ‘shortcomings relating to project management and the failure to advise the Prime Minister of the situation in October 2020’ in respect to the upgrade works on the No 11 flat.
The Electoral Commission has launched a separate probe into whether the Conservative Party might have broken electoral law over its part in the funding arrangements.
Labour MPs have also asked the parliamentary commissioner for standards to look into the issues raised and whether any rules been broken.
Mr Johnson has previously been warned by the Commons standards committee for failing to declare interests.
In 2019, after he made public apologies, he was told he would face a more ‘serious sanction’ if he breached the rules again. That could potentially mean a recommendation of suspension, although it would need to be approved by the whole House.
The new list of ministerial interests refers to the No11 funding row, but says the interests are not ‘current’
Tips to Find Low Priced Luxury Holiday Package Deals Fast