Boris Johnson criticised over Mustique trip explanationon July 8, 2021 at 10:36 am

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But, Boris Johnson is cleared of breaching parliamentary standards rules over the Caribbean holiday.

Boris Johnson has been criticised by the MPs standards watchdog for failing to promptly explain how a trip to Mustique was funded – however he has been cleared of breaching the rules.

An inquiry was launched into the prime minister’s 2019 Caribbean holiday after confusion over who paid for the trip.

The Committee on Standards has now concluded that Mr Johnson’s account was “accurate and complete”.

But, it added it was “regrettable” a full explanation had not come earlier.

In making its judgement, the committee overruled the Commons standards commissioner Kathryn Stone who having carried out the report had concluded that Mr Johnson broke the rules by having not “fulfilled conscientiously” the requirements to register donations.

The committee – made up of MPs and members of the public – said it reached a different conclusion after receiving additional evidence.

The prime minister told reporters he hadn’t seen the conclusions of the report but said “as I understand it, the committee has found there was no case to answer.”

Responding to the report, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “The way Johnson handles his personal finances mirrors the way he governs the country – chaos and confusion.”

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Analysis box by Jonathan Blake, political correspondent

This report reads a bit like a weary teacher’s verdict on an unruly pupil… “I’m not angry, just disappointed,” it might have said.

Boris Johnson hasn’t broken the rules but neither has he gone out of his way to comply with them.

Not for the first time, the committee points out.

Before he was prime minister, Mr Johnson broke parliamentary rules by not declaring his share of a property soon enough and his own standards advisor said he acted “unwisely” over the refurbishment of his Downing street flat.

His political opponents claim it’s a pattern of behaviour that makes him unsuitable to govern.

But Boris Johnson has survived another brush with authority unscathed.

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In February 2020, Mr Johnson declared that his £15,000 holiday accommodation on the Caribbean island had been covered by Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross.

Mr Ross initially said he had not paid “any monies” for the trip. He later clarified that he had “facilitated” accommodation for the prime minister.

Following an investigation, the Committee on Standards concluded that Mr Ross had donated the accommodation, but added that the arrangements had been “ad hoc and informal and do not appear to have been fully explained to Mr Johnson at the outset”.

“This matter could have been concluded many months ago if more strenuous efforts had been made to dispel the uncertainty,” the committee said.

“It is regrettable that a full account and explanation of the funding arrangements for Mr Johnson’s holiday accommodation has only come to light as a result of our own inquiries rather than at an earlier stage.

“Given that Mr Johnson was twice reprimanded by our predecessor committee in the last Parliament in the space of four months for ‘an over-casual attitude towards obeying the rules of the House’, we would have expected him to have gone the extra mile to ensure there was no uncertainty about the arrangements.”

In May 2020, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Stone, undertook the investigation on behalf of the committee.

She found that Mr Johnson had “sought and was offered” use of a villa owned by Mr Ross, a Conservative party supporter and friend of Mr Johnson.

However, Mr Ross’ villa was unavailable for the dates of Mr Johnson’s holiday so instead another villa was found for the prime minister.

The commissioner said Mr Johnson was right to name Mr Ross as a donor, but said if another person had provided funds, Mr Johnson should also have given the details of whoever funded his holiday accommodation in the first instance.

Ms Stone said it had been “unusually difficult” to establish the facts during her investigation – which had been delayed due to the pandemic and Mr Johnson’s own stay in hospital.

Due to a lack of “reliable documentary evidence”, she said she was unable to conclude whether Mr Johnson’s account was accurate and complete adding “it is not my role to provide the missing information – this remains the responsibility of the member.”

However she did conclude that the prime minister had breached the code because he did not “make sufficient inquiries” to establish who was providing his accommodation.

Mustique

image copyrightGetty Images

On receiving the commissioner’s report, the committee concluded it did not have sufficient evidence to judge if the code had been broken.

However after making further inquiries – including contacting the owner of the villa where Mr Johnson stayed – it said it reached a different conclusion from the commissioner and decided that Mr Johnson had not breached the rules.

The committee explained it had received confirmation from the owners of the villa where Mr Johnson stayed that they had been paid by the Mustique Company that manages the island.

In turn, the committee said, Mr Ross allowed the Mustique Company to use his own villa to compensate for Mr Johnson’s holiday.

It therefore concluded that Mr Ross was the donor “of a benefit in kind” to the prime minister and that Mr Johnson’s account of the donation had been accurate.

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