BoJo Facing Looming Standards Watchdog Probe Into Luxury Holiday at Getaway Funded by Tory Donor
Boris Johnson, his wife, Carrie, and their son, Wilfred, flew to Marbella in southern Spain in early October after the UK Prime Minister had delivered a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. Many had criticised the timing of the holiday as the government faced challenging fuel and supply issues as well as soaring energy prices.
Boris Johnson has found himself in the center of a sleaze row over his “free of charge” holiday in October at a luxurious Spanish villa in Marbella, southern Spain, funded by ex-MP Lord Zac Goldsmith, reported The Guardian.
The UK Labour Party has demanded a formal probe from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in the House of Commons over the fact that, unlike with previous holidays, Johnson had not declared it on the separate Commons register of MPs’ interests, which requires details including the value of such a trip.
“This appears to be a breach of the House code of conduct and the rules relating to the conduct of members regarding the declaration and registration of interests and gifts,” Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner is cited as having written.
Rayner added that the Tory Prime Minister had a “long history of breaching the rules in relation to parliamentary standards.”
“We cannot have a situation where Boris Johnson behaves like it’s one rule for him and another for everyone else,” she underscored to Commissioner Kathryn Stone.
Rayner also formally requested a probe into whether Johnson had breached Commons rules by failing to declare the details of the financing of the lavish refurbishment of his flat above 11 Downing Street. There had been speculation back in May regarding whether the Conservative Party broke the law on political donations regarding the funding of the flat.
© AP Photo / Matt DunhamFILE -In this Friday, Dec. 13, 2019 file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds wave from the steps of number 10 Downing Street in London.
FILE -In this Friday, Dec. 13, 2019 file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds wave from the steps of number 10 Downing Street in London.
© AP Photo / Matt Dunham
Boris Johnson was found to have acted "unwisely" by not being more "rigorous" in finding out who had funded the revamp, a report by Lord Geidt, the PM's adviser on standards, said. A wealthy Tory donor - former Conservative vice-chairman Lord Brownlow - had paid an invoice for some of the costs. But Johnson was at the time cleared of breaking ministerial conduct rules.
Boris Johnson flew to the Spanish villa in October, after he had delivered a speech at the Conservative Party conference. The approximately week-long getaway, where the PM escaped for some down time together with his wife Carrie Johnson and their son Wilfred was funded by Lord Goldsmith, according to the latest update in the register of ministerial interests. There was no mention of how much it was worth.
“The prime minister has a longstanding personal friendship with the Goldsmith family and, in that capacity, in October 2021 stayed in a holiday home in southern Spain, which was provided free of charge by the Goldsmiths,” stated the updated entry in Johnson's register of interests.
In October, photos had emerged of the PM painting at an easel while holidaying at the Spanish villa, where a week’s rent runs into an estimated £25,000 ($33, 744). Lord Goldsmith is a former Tory MP for Richmond Park who lost his seat at the 2019 general election. He was subsequently given a peerage in the House of Lords and retained his ministerial role as Minister of State for Pacific and the Environment.
A spokesperson for Downing Street insisted the Prime Minister had “met the transparency requirements” as “he declared this arrangement in his ministerial capacity, given this was hospitality provided by another minister.”
“Given the hospitality was provided by another minister, it’s right that the PM made this declaration in his ministerial capacity. I also point out that this was a family holiday at the home of longstanding family friends and is unconnected with a PM’s parliamentary and political activities,” stated Boris Johnson’s spokesperson.
According to the MPs' rulebook, members must register any visit outside the UK where the cost is more than £300, unless they have paid the bill themselves in full. There is no requirement to register “visits wholly unconnected with membership of the House or with the member’s parliamentary or political activities (e.g., family holidays)”.
Earlier, a conduct probe was carried out into Boris Johnson’s £15,000-worth stay on the Caribbean island of Mustique following the Conservatives' general election triumph in December 2019. In February 2020, Johnson declared that his holiday accommodation had been covered by Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross. The Committee on Standards concluded that Ross had donated the accommodation, but arrangements had been "ad hoc and informal and do not appear to have been fully explained to Mr. Johnson at the outset".
The Committee had overruled the Commons standards commissioner Kathryn Stone who had concluded that Johnson broke the rules by having not "fulfilled conscientiously" the requirements to register donations. However, that probe had also found that Johnson was “required to register the holiday accommodation he received in the Register of Members’ Interests”.
According to the Daily Mail, the Commissioner will decide whether to investigate the funding of the Downing Street flat refurbishment after a separate probe by the Electoral Commission has been completed.