Labour has called for an investigation into the source of funding for the Prime Minister’s luxury holiday to Mustique by writing to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
The person named by Boris Johnson as having paid for the holiday, David Ross, denied that he did so though has stated that he “facilitated the accommodation” – which Labour says “leaves questions unanswered”.
In a fresh letter to the relevant commissioner, Labour’s Jon Trickett has noted that “the Code of Conduct requires Members to provide the name of the person or organisation that actually funded a donation”.
The shadow minister for the Cabinet Office wrote: “Transparency is crucial to ensuring that the public have confidence that elected Members of this House have not been unduly influenced by any donations or gifts that they may receive.”
Trickett also raised the fact that Johnson has a record of failure on this subject. The Prime Minister, before becoming Tory leader, was forced to apologise in 2019 after not properly declaring his expenses.
At the time, the committee on standards said that “should we conclude in future that Mr Johnson has committed any further breaches of the rules on registration, we will regard this as a matter which may call for more serious sanction”.
Below is the full text of Jon Trickett’s letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
In the latest Register of Members’ Financial Interests, the Prime Minister lists accommodation he accepted on the luxury private island resort of Mustique over the Christmas period as a benefit in kind valued at £15,000.
This is in keeping with the House of Commons’ Code of Conduct, which states in Chapter 1, paragraph 33, that Members must register: “Any travel or hospitality received in the course of a visit outside the UK, if it relates in any way to their membership of the House or to their parliamentary or political activities, including: … b) hospitality, including hotel or other accommodation, and meals”.
The Code of Conduct is also clear that when registering such a donation, Members are required to provide, among other details, “The name and address of the person or organisation funding the visit” (Chapter 1, paragraph 36).
The Prime Minister has listed a Mr David Ross as the name of the person who funded his accommodation. However, as reported by the Daily Mail (February 13, 2020), a spokesperson for Mr Ross has now categorically denied that he funded the Prime Minister’s accommodation, telling the press:
“Boris Johnson did not stay in David Ross’s house. Boris wanted some help to find somewhere in Mustique, David called the company who run all the villas and somebody had dropped out. So Boris got the use of a villa that was worth £15,000, but David Ross did not pay any monies whatsoever for this”.
The spokesperson added that Mr Ross had “not put his hand in his pocket whatsoever and can obviously prove that”.
As noted, the Code of Conduct requires Members to provide the name of the person or organisation that actually funded a donation. The evidence now suggests it was not David Ross. The entry made by the Prime Minister therefore appears to be incorrect. Despite this, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson this morning insisted that:
“All transparency requirements have been followed, as set out in the register of members’ financial interests”.
Clearly this statement provides no clarity to the confusion and will not satisfy public concern surrounding the donation. A number of questions still need urgently answering:
- If all transparency requirements have been followed, what is the source of the discrepancy and confusion between the account provided by Mr Ross and the Prime Minister’s insistence that the rules have been followed?
- Did the Prime Minister accept the £15,000 donation without full knowledge of its true source?
- If the entry is incorrect, did the Prime Minister knowingly make a false entry into the Register?
- Who was the true source of the £15,000 donation?
This case has added significance not only because of Mr Johnson’s pre-eminent public role as Prime Minister, but because in April 2019 he had to apologise to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Committee on Standards for failing to declare expenses correctly. Notably, the Committee asserted that “should we conclude in future that Mr Johnson has committed any further breaches of the rules on registration, we will regard this as a matter which may call for more serious sanction.”
Transparency is crucial to ensuring that the public have confidence that elected Members of this House have not been unduly influenced by any donations or gifts that they may receive. For this reason, and the above concerns, I therefore request that you to investigate whether the Prime Minister has followed all transparency requirements when registering this donation.
Jon Trickett MP
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office