Dominic Cummings warned PM he could be breaking the lawApril 23, 2021
Dominic Cummings warned Boris Johnson he could be breaking the law if he let Tory donors pay for new decor for his Downing Street flat
- PM’s former chief of staff warned it was ‘unethical, foolish and possibly illegal’
- As a result Boris Johnson stopped discussing moves with for donors to fund it
- Statement came after it was revealed the PM as been forced to pay towards cost
Dominic Cummings told Boris Johnson he could be breaking the law if he went ahead with plans to get Tory donors to pay for new decor for his Downing Street flat.
The Prime Minister’s former No 10 chief of staff said he warned the proposal was ‘unethical, foolish and possibly illegal’ and he had refused to help arrange any such payments.
As a result of him expressing his opposition to the idea, Mr Cummings claimed, Mr Johnson stopped discussing moves with him to get donors to fund the flat refurbishment.
Boris Johnson, pictured with Carrie Symonds, was told by Dominic Cummings the proposal was ‘possibly illegal’
His comments came in a statement issued on his website immediately after the Government revealed yesterday that Mr Johnson had finally been forced to pay from his own pocket towards the cost of the apartment refit.
The PM’s U-turn followed a series of revelations in the Daily Mail since February detailing how the Tory party paid £58,000 towards the refurbishment of the No 11 flat and then tried to disguise it.
The total cost of the work is believed to be a five-figure sum.
Mr Cummings claimed Mr Johnson’s newly appointed director of communications, Jack Doyle, had ‘made accusations’ about him yesterday regarding ‘leaks concerning the PM’s renovation of his flat.’
In a fierce counter-attack, Mr Cummings stated: ‘The PM stopped speaking to me about this matter in 2020 as I told him I thought his plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended.
‘I refused to help him organise these payments. My knowledge about them is therefore limited.’ Mr Cummings added he was willing to share his information about the matter with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case or the Electoral Commission watchdog which monitors party funding.
The total cost of the work on the Downing Street flat overhaul is believed to be a five-figure sum
This newspaper disclosed on March 20 that the Electoral Commission had asked Conservative chairman Ben Elliot if the party had complied with strict electoral laws on political donations.
According to well-placed sources, the Prime Minister agreed to pay up himself after he was told it is not permissible for a political party to use its funds to refurbish the Prime Minister’s official home; nor is it acceptable for a Tory donor pay for it privately. In a third blow, it is understood the plan to channel the money to the flat via a proposed ‘Downing Street Trust’ has also been ruled out.
Cabinet Office Minister Lord True confirmed yesterday that plans for such a trust to preserve Downing Street as a whole are still under consideration.
However, insiders revealed one of the main reasons Mr Johnson has pursued the idea of a trust so vigorously since the cost of the flat soared – to recoup the £58,000 – has also been thrown out.
Officials are believed to have advised that the trust can be used for the Downing Street rooms, where receptions for visiting dignitaries and charitable functions are hosted, but they cannot be used for new wallpaper for the flat – either now or in the future.
Mr Cummings claimed Mr Johnson’s newly appointed director of communications, Jack Doyle, had ‘made accusations’ about him yesterday
Together with Mr Johnson’s agreement to pay towards the flat from his own income, it would suggest Mr Cummings’s instincts were right all along.
A No 10 spokesman said last night: ‘At all times, the Government and ministers have acted in accordance with the appropriate codes of conduct and electoral law. Cabinet Office officials have been engaged and informed throughout and official advice has been followed.
‘All reportable donations are transparently declared and published – either by the Electoral Commission or the House of Commons registrar, in line with the requirements set out in electoral law.
‘Gifts and benefits received in a ministerial capacity are, and will continue to be, declared in transparency returns.’
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