Labour demands official probe into Boris Johnson’s plan to refurbish Downing Street flat
- Sir Keir Starmer has entered the row over Boris Johnson’s flat refurbishment
- He demanded a formal probe into whether he should face criminal proceedings
- The Daily Mail revealed details of the lavish redecoration of the Downing Street apartment shared by the PM and his fiancée Carrie Symonds
In a major development, lawyers acting for Labour wrote to the electoral watchdog accusing the Prime Minister of attempting to ‘conceal’ donations for the work.
Sir Keir Starmer has entered the row over Boris Johnson’s flat refurbishment to demand a formal probe into whether he should face criminal proceedings
In the letter to the Electoral Commission, Labour’s lawyers wrote: ‘The sequence of events outlined both in this letter and elsewhere merit a full and detailed investigation including whether the facts as you are able to establish warrant criminal proceedings.’
The revamp at No11 by upmarket designer Lulu Lytle is said to have cost six figures and included gold wall coverings.
Sir Keir’s intervention will ramp up the pressure on No10 to publish details of ‘secret’ payments for the redesign.
The letter – sent by lawyers for Labour’s democracy spokesman Cat Smith – calls on the commission to begin a formal investigation.The watchdog is currently probing a secret £60,000 payment for the makeover to determine whether it broke the rules. This does not constitute a formal investigation. But Labour’s lawyers argue the case meets the Commission’s requirements to begin one.
In the letter, they refer to a £60,000 payment from the Tory Party for the work, and a secret reimbursement to the party for the same amount from donor Lord Brownlow.
The money does not appear in the list of political donations published by the Commission or in Mr Johnson’s Commons register of interests.
The lawyers said they were concerned he may have tried to ‘conceal’ the true donor by arranging for the Tory Party to pay the amount. The law states donations must be reported to the relevant authority within a month, the lawyers added.
‘There would appear to be a prima facie breach in the Prime Minister having failed to report the donation within the requisite statutory time limit as the funds appear to have been paid several months ago, and as we understand it no report has been made by him,’ they said. Mr Johnson still had an obligation to declare the donation by Lord Brownlow if it had been made through the party, they added.
The revamp at No11 by upmarket designer Lulu Lytle is said to have cost six figures and included gold wall coverings
The Labour letter went on: ‘We are concerned there appears to have been an attempt to conceal the true donor of the funds by arranging for the Conservative Party to pay for the substantial part of the refurbishment.’
It said: ‘The reports from several reliable media sources regarding an issue that is very likely to be of great concern to the general public mean that this is a clearly appropriate case where the Electoral Commission ought to use its statutory powers to investigate further.’
The Commission has asked Tory chairman Ben Elliot to explain if the party has complied with electoral rules. He and Mr Johnson deny impropriety. A spokesman for the Commission said it would respond to the letter in due course. A Conservative spokesman said: ‘Party funds are not being used to pay for any refurbishment to the Downing Street estate.’