Tory Party chiefs have been handed the initial findings of the Electoral Commission’s probe into the luxury refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat, The Telegraph can reveal.
Conservative Party headquarters now has the opportunity to respond to the body’s ruling on whether donation rules were broken when Mr Johnson received financial support for the upgrades.
The approaching end of the Electoral Commission’s probe raises the possibility that Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, could launch a third investigation into the issue.
The Prime Minister has three times been the subject of investigations by Ms Stone, whose conclusion that the Tory MP Owen Paterson had broken lobbying rules led to a parliamentary battle over the standards system.
But Downing Street sources on Thursday night categorically rejected the suggestion, made by Dominic Cummings, that Mr Johnson’s support of changes to the system this week was a “preemptive strike” against Ms Stone.
A Downing Street source said: “The Prime Minister’s residence was a ministerial matter. And this interest has been declared transparently via the List of Ministers’ Interests following advice from Lord Geidt.
“The House of Commons code of conduct is clear that donations or donations in kind declared via the ministerial code are not in scope of the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.”
The source added that “any suggestion” the case was linked to how Mr Paterson’s situation was approached was “totally incorrect”.
But it is thought that any payments made personally to Mr Johnson may be subject to rules on MPs’ donations, which falls within her remit as commissioner.
Asked if the standards reform proposals were tabled to avoid scrutiny of the Prime Minister, his official spokesman replied: “No.”
“The Prime Minister’s focus is on, as he set out [on Thursday], securing a proper appeal for this process, as there are other walks of life,” the spokesman added.
Suggestion of a third investigation into Mr Johnson’s flat refurbishments follows a report by Lord Geidt, his standards adviser, who said the Prime Minister had acted “unwisely” by not being more “rigorous” in finding out who was funding the refit, but cleared him of breaking ministerial conduct rules.
Accounts show the £52,000 of works were funded initially by the Cabinet Office, which invoiced the Conservative Party, which was in turn refunded by Lord Brownlow, a Tory donor.
The incident has been dubbed “wallpaper-gate,” a reference to the gold wallpaper reportedly used in the renovation.
Lulu Lytle, a luxury interior designer, was brought into Downing Street to refurbish the Number 11 flat at considerable expense, after Mr Johnson’s wife, Carrie Johnson, reportedly objected to John Lewis furniture left behind by Theresa and Philip May.
Lulu Lytle of Soane Britain is a celebrated interior designer
Credit: Elliott Franks
Mr Johnson has previously been admonished by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner on four occasions, most recently over a £15,000 Christmas holiday to the island of Mustique. That report was later overturned by the Committee on Standards.
The latest edition of the register of ministers’ interests, released on Wednesday night, confirmed that Mr Johnson had also borrowed Lord Goldsmith’s villa in Marbella for a holiday last month.
In 2019, Mr Johnson apologised for the late registration of a one-fifth share of a rental property in Somerset – worth more than £100,000 – after a complaint was made to Ms Stone.
A year earlier, he was found to have failed to declare more than £52,000 in income from book royalty payments in time.
Mr and Mrs Johnson in Zac Goldsmith's Tramores estate in Marblla
Under a previous commissioner, he also had a complaint upheld in 2008, while MP for Henley, over undeclared shares in a firm which made history documentaries which he presented.
Mr Johnson said at the time the shares were worth just £33 and he had not realised they had any financial value.
Prior to the Electoral Commission’s investigation into the flat refurbishments, the Government announced plans to reform the watchdog, which it accused of trying to “expand its empire” and create “unnecessary investigations”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, said earlier this year that the quango was “in serious need of reform … particularly regarding its accountability to the House and how it may bring prosecutions”.