Boris Johnson acted “unwisely” in allowing his Downing Street flat to be refurbished without “more rigorous regard” for how it would be funded, according to his ethics adviser.
In a ten-page report on minister’s interests, Lord Geidt said there had been a “significant failing” from officials in how rigorous they were at examining the idea of setting up a trust to fund renovations.
The report was published on Friday following months of delay and comes after controversy over a lavish renovation of Johnson and partner Carrie Symonds’ private residence, the flat above 11 Downing Street.
Lord Geidt indicated however that Johnson knew “nothing about” payments for the refurbishment work on his Downing Street flat 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.”
Lord Geidt added: “It is clear from the record that while a serious and genuine endeavour, the (Downing Street) Trust was not subjected to a scheme of rigorous project management by officials.
“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.
“Instead, the Prime Minister – unwisely, in my view – allowed the refurbishment of the apartment at No 11 Downing Street to proceed without more rigorous regard for how this would be funded.”
Lord Geidt concluded there was “no conflict” of interests for the Prime Minister as part of how the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat was carried out and paid for.
“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.
A No 10 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.”