Boris Johnson pushed over Downing Street flat refurbishment in PMQs row

Sir Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson of representing “major sleaze” in the Government during heated exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Prime Minister's Questions. Photo: PA

The Labour leader jabbed his finger in the direction of Mr Johnson as he told the Commons: “Dodgy contracts, jobs for their mates and cash for access – and who is at the heart of it? The Prime Minister major sleaze sitting there.”

Sir Keir used his questions to probe the Prime Minister about the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, with Mr Johnson insisting he has paid for it personally.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Keir said: “Who initially – and Prime Minister, initially is the key word here – who initially paid for the redecoration of his Downing Street flat?”

Mr Johnson replied: “As for the latest stuff that he is bringing up, he should know that I have paid for Downing Street refurbishment personally.

“And I contrast it … any further declaration that I have to make, if any, I will be advised upon by (the independent adviser on ministers’ interests) Lord Geidt.”

Sir Keir pushed again on the payment for the refurbishment, and offered the Prime Minister “multiple choice”.

The Labour leader said: “Either the taxpayer paid the initial invoice, or it was the Conservative Party, or it was a private donor, or it was the Prime Minister.”

Mr Johnson talked about former Labour governments’ spending on the flat, and said: “I think people will think it absolutely bizarre that he is focusing on this issue when what people want to know is what plans a Labour government might have to improve the life of people in this country.”

He added: “I would much rather help people get on the property ladder and it’s this Conservative government that has built 244,000 homes in the last year, which is a record over 30 years.”

Sir Keir asked whether Lord Brownlow made a contribution to cover the cost of the refurbishment, and asked the Prime Minister to confirm: “Did Lord Brownlow make that payment for that purpose?”

Mr Johnson said: “I think I have answered this question several times now and the answer is that I have covered the cost.

“I have met the requirements that I have been obliged to meet in full.

“When it comes to the taxpayer and the costs of Number 10 Downing Street it was the previous Labour government – I think Tony Blair racked up a bill of £350,000 – and I think what the people of this country want to see is minimising taxpayer expense, they want to see a Government that’s focused on their needs and delivering more homes for the people of this country.”

Sir Keir countered: “The Prime Minister hasn’t answered the question, he knows he hasn’t answered the question, he never answers the question.”

The Labour leader reminded Mr Johnson he is required to declare any benefits that relate to his political activities, including loans or credit arrangements, within 28 days.

He added: “He will also know any donation must be recorded in the register of ministers’ interests and, under the law, any donation of over £500 to a political party must be registered and declared. So, the rules are very clear.

“The Electoral Commission now thinks there are reasonable grounds to suspect an offence or offences may have occurred. That’s incredibly serious.

“Can the Prime Minister tell the House: does he believe that any rules or laws have been broken in relation to the refurbishment of the Prime Minister’s flat?”

Mr Johnson replied: “No, I don’t. What I believe has been strained to breaking point is the credulity of the public.”

The Prime Minister argued Sir Keir had failed to put “serious and sensible” questions to him about the pandemic or other issues, noting: “He goes on and on about wallpaper when I’ve told him umpteen times now, I paid for it.”

Sir Keir concluded by listing the principles meant to govern those in public office, telling the Commons: “Selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

“Instead, what do we get from this Prime Minister and Conservative Government?

“Dodgy contracts, jobs for their mates and cash for access – and who is at the heart of it? The Prime Minister, major sleaze sitting there.”

The Labour leader went on to claim the Government is “mired in sleaze, cronyism and scandal”.

Mr Johnson delivered a fiery response to Sir Keir and defended his record in Government, also telling MPs: “Week after week, the people of this country can see the difference between a Labour Party that twists and turns with the wind and thinks of nothing except playing political games, whereas this party gets on with delivering on the people’s priorities.”