Boris Johnson’s refurbishment of his Downing Street residence could be investigated by parliament’s sleaze watchdog, a move that would mean the prime minister could be personally sanctioned if found to have breached conduct rules.
“We do not know who is making these donations, how much they are handing over to the prime minister or what favours they are possibly given in return for their cash.”
MP Margaret Hodge said she feared the three inquiries launched so far had remits that might allow the prime minister to deflect blame.
“I am deeply concerned that the prime minister will simply be able to walk away from this scandal otherwise,” she said. “The cronyism and sleaze that is rife in Downing Street cannot go unchecked, and Boris Johnson must be held to account. He cannot just wriggle out of this scandal.”
Hodge goes on to note in her letter that “specific mention has been made in the media of three members of the House of Lords and their possible roles”.
The peers named in her letter are Lord Brownlow, the Tory donor approached to chair the Downing Street trust through which – it is alleged – Johnson hoped to fund renovations, Lord Bamford, the JCB chair whom the Daily Mail reported that Johnson wanted to approach for donations, and Lord Goldsmith, the Defra minister, whom the Mail also reported was seen as a possible donor.
“Given that they too are legislators their role is clearly of particular public interest,” Hodge wrote.
Lords Bamford and Brownlow have been approached for comment. A spokesperson for Lord Goldsmith said he had no comment on Hodge’s letter.
She said the prime minister’s refusal to declare who met the upfront costs of the renovation was unacceptable. No 10 has not denied reports that the Conservative party paid the Cabinet Office for the renovations, and that £58,000 was donated to the party by Brownlow for the Downing Street trust, which has not been formed, only saying that Johnson himself is now meeting the costs.
An investigation by Stone, if confirmed, would mean Johnson facing four separate inquiries. The cabinet secretary, Simon Case, the boss of the civil service, has been asked by Johnson to investigate how donations were declared. Johnson has also tasked Lord Geidt, his newly appointed adviser on ministerial standards, with investigating his donations.
Under the 2015 Recall of MPs Act, Stone has the power to refer the most serious cases to the committee on standards for sanctions, which can include ordering a temporary suspension of MPs from parliament. That could trigger a byelection if the suspension is longer than 10 sitting days.