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THE “stench of sleaze” from the Tory Party is “overwhelming,” Labour charged yesterday after a minister stumbled to defend the PM over his luxury Downing Street refurb.
Boris Johnson is coming under mounting pressure to address the latest cronyism scandal, with Labour calling on the Speaker to haul the PM in front of MPs today for questioning.
Speaking to broadcasters yesterday, Trade Secretary Liz Truss repeated government claims that the PM paid for the works himself, but was unable to explain where he got the money.
The latest storm came after Mr Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings alleged last week that the PM had sought funding from Tory donors for the lavish refurbishment.
Ms Truss dismissed the allegations during an interview with Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, claiming that the PM had “fully complied” with rules and paid for it from his own pocket.
“I absolutely believe and trust that the Prime Minister has done that,” she said.
“What people want to know is that, in line with the rules, the Prime Minister has met the cost of this refurbishment. That has happened. All the costs will be declared in line with the rules.
“That, as far as I am concerned, completely answers that question.”
But Labour said the Cabinet minister had shown “contempt for the country,” highlighting Ms Truss’s attempts to dodge more than 30 questions over who originally paid for the works and why this was not declared.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “The stench of sleaze coming from the Conservatives is overwhelming.
“As a first step to start cleaning it up, they need to immediately publish the delayed Register of Ministers’ Interests and publish who benefited from their VIP fast lane.
“And we need an investigation to find out who paid for the Prime Minister’s redecoration of Downing Street and when.”
Labour added that questions still remained over how the reported £200,000 cost of the refurbishment was met.
According to leaked emails, Tory peer Lord Brownlow said he was making a £58,000 donation to the party “to cover the payments the party has already made on behalf of the soon-to-be formed ‘Downing Street Trust’.”
The issue was first raised with the Tory Party over a month ago by the Electoral Commission. The body said it was still looking into whether sums relating to the refurbishment should have been declared under the rules on political donations.
Labour’s shadow minister for the Cabinet Office Rachel Reeves wrote to Mr Johnson yesterday calling for a full inquiry to be launched into the scandal.
She wrote: “Any external financial aid to a Prime Minister’s lifestyle must of course be fully declared at the time and, as the Ministerial Code makes clear, real and perceived conflicts of interest must be avoided.”
At the weekend Ms Reeves also wrote to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove to voice concerns over the awarding of Covid contracts, including for PPE, to firms with links to the Tory Party — another of the series of scandals currently engulfing government.
She called on Mr Gove to publish all communications between ministers and their links or business contacts handed contracts under emergency procurement measures.
“I am sure you also appreciate that these revelations are creating a growing impression that there is one set of rules for ministers and their close friends, and another for the rest of the British public,” she wrote.
Labour has previously accused the Tories of handing £2 billion worth of contracts to its friends and donors.
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