Labor calls for a formal investigation into Parliament’s watchdog for Boris Johnson’s £ 15,000 Caribbean vacation after the prime minister and a Tory donor failed to disclose who paid for it.
Jon Trickett, the shadow cabinet minister, wrote to standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson asking them to investigate Johnson’s recent statement in the register of members’ interests.
Number 10 claims that one of Carphone Warehouse’s founders, David Ross, allowed the Prime Minister and his partner Carrie Symonds to use accommodation for a week-long vacation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
But on Wednesday evening, Ross told the Daily Mail that he was not the owner of the villa on the island of Mustique that Johnson had lived in and had not paid for the Prime Minister’s vacation.
In a statement on Thursday, the businessman’s spokesman said Ross “eased the placement,” but shed no further light on who picked up the Prime Minister’s bill.
“Mr. Ross provided Mr. Johnson with £ 15,000 in Mustique. Therefore, this is a benefit in kind from Mr. Ross to Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Johnson’s statement to the House of Commons is correct, ”said the spokesman.
Trickett released a formal request for a request, saying that Ross’ new statement left an obvious, unanswered question: “The question remains: who paid?”
“Transparency is crucial to ensure that the public has confidence that elected members of this house have not been overly influenced by donations or gifts that they may receive,” he wrote.
According to the register of members’ financial interests, “MEPs have a wide-ranging duty to point out (” explain “) an interest, almost always when someone else is reasonably considering it to influence what they consider to be MPs say or do. “
A spokeswoman for the commissioner said that her office had not commented on receiving complaints or whether it intended to investigate.
Johnson’s spokesman declined to say who owned the villa, whether Johnson knew who owned the villa, and if not, how to know that it didn’t belong to someone from China or Russia, for example.
“All relevant transparency requirements were met,” the spokesman said, declining to say who released them in the cabinet office.
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Ross, 54, has known Johnson for at least 15 years. He was a member of the London Olympics Board in 2012, representing Johnson, who was mayor of London at the time. He had to step down as Carphone Warehouse vice chairman in 2008 after not announcing that he had pledged a large portion of his stake in the company against personal loans.
The Caribbean holiday gave Johnson a New Year break after the campaign. At the time, it was reported that Johnson and Symonds were visiting the private island of Mustique. The prime minister was criticized for waiting until the end of the holiday to make a statement on the death of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, who was killed in a US drone attack in Baghdad.
The couple were reportedly staying at Oceanus, a six-bedroom Moroccan villa on the island’s west coast that is estimated to cost up to £ 32,000 a week between Christmas and New Year.
The confusion may be due in part to the ownership structure of the villas, in which some people, possibly Ross, may have shares that give them a period of time in a villa each year.
According to Johnson’s statement, the vacation donor was identified as “Mr. David Ross”. Under the heading “Type and value of the contribution in kind (or amount of a donation)”, Johnson’s entry read: “Accommodation for a private vacation for my partner and me, worth £ 15,000.” The private holiday was between December 26th and January 5th, according to the entry in the register.
Ross is a former tax exporter and friend of David Cameron with estimated assets of GBP 1 billion. He has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the conservative party, and prominent Tories have been known to attend shooting parties at his large estate in Leicestershire.
He has entertained many stars in his villa on Mustique. Elaborate parties were attended by, among others, the singer Mick Jagger, the publisher William Cash, the commercial banker Mark Cecil as well as Prince William and Kate.
Ross also gave Cameron gifts when he was Prime Minister, flew him from London to West Yorkshire by helicopter and provided him with a flight from Germany, where he had played in a World Cup match.
In April 2019, Johnson had to apologize for not correctly declaring the expenses. The standardization body wrote: “We conclude with concern that these two Commissioner investigations are showing, in rapid succession, a pattern of behavior by Mr Johnson.
“Should we conclude in the future that Mr. Johnson has committed further violations of the registration rules, we will consider this a matter that may require more severe sanctions.”
A 10-member spokeswoman said: “All transparency requirements have been met, as set out in the register of members’ financial interests.”