Another expenses fumble for Boris. The PM has been cleared of violating the Parliamentary Code of Conduct today over his Caribbean Christmas getaway – but the Committee on Standards has given him a slap on the wrist for sloppy bookkeeping.
David Ross, billionaire co-founder of Carphone Warehouse and Conservative donor, paid £15,000 for the PM and his wife to holiday at a villa on the island of Mustique over the Christmas vacation in 2020. But the details of who exactly paid for what remained unclear until the Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone OBE, set up an inquiry in May to establish the full facts.
The PM was intending to stay at the villa of Ross himself – who is reported to have donated £10,000 to Boris’ Tory leadership campaign in 2019. But that villa was occupied, so the couple stayed elsewhere and Ross paid.
It was this swap, which involved a transfer of cash between a holiday company and another property-owner, that caused confusion and concern that Boris had broken the rules on transparency.
While the Commissioner concluded that Boris had been in breach of the Parliamentary Code of Conduct for failing to “make sufficient inquiries to establish the full facts about the funding arrangements for his free accommodation”, the Committee on Standards has decided to drop the case after the PM cleared things up.
It was a minor quibble in the end – but whoever filed the complaint to the Commissioner for Standards in the first place seems determined to get Boris on every sloppy mistake he makes. The ruling concludes yet another fumble over expenses for the flustered PM with expensive tastes and a demanding family. In May a separate investigation was surprised to find that Boris was unaware of a £200,000 Downing Street renovation donation made in his honour until he read about it in the newspapers.
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As well as warning ministers against accepting gifts and donations from obscure sources, the Commission scolded Boris for his sloppy paperwork. “Members would be wise to ensure that they are in a position to substantiate the basis of their Register entry with documentary evidence, in case that should become necessary at a later date”, they said.