Join Hafta-Ichi to Research the article “‘Stench of sleaze’: Labour accuses PM of using his office to give tax breaks to James Dyson – politics live | Politics”
Good morning. Boris Johnson can today mark up the collapse of the European super league plan as a victory. We don’t know quite how big a factor his robust threat to pass legislation to block the plan was in persuading the six English clubs to pull out, but it must have had an impact. However, with that crisis out of the way, he now finds himself embroiled in a lobbying scandal.
The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg has revealed that Johnson used text messages to assure Sir James Dyson, the billionaire Brexiter, that he would personally intervene to ensure that Dyson’s staff would not face an additional tax bill if they visited the UK from abroad to work on producing ventilators for the NHS during the Covid pandemic. Here is a story explaining the revelations.
And here are the text messages.
Government responses to the story have stressed that Johnson was acting to facilitate ventilator supply at a time of national emergency. But, as Kuenssberg argues in her analysis, what the revelations show is how the standard Whitehall rules governing ministerial contacts with business people and others who want to change policy don’t cover informal text-message communications. She says:
Dyson had made an official approach to the Treasury on this issue. But it is not clear at this stage whether the prime minister did or didn’t tell officials about these specific exchanges of texts.
The practice of the principles that are meant to govern what is permitted has proved troublesome recently, provoking one of the all too regular concerns about lobbying of government.
Downing Street let it be known last week that the prime minister was shocked about some of the revelations that emerged, particularly about civil servants’ behaviour as the lobbying row got deeper and deeper.
But in the next few hours, some of his critics are likely to claim to be shocked by his.
The Labour party has adopted a much harsher view. In a statement issued this morning, a party spokesperson claimed the revelations showed that Johnson wanted to give “tax breaks” to a “billionaire friend”. The spokesman said:
These are jaw-dropping revelations. Boris Johnson is now front and centre of the biggest lobbying scandal in a generation, and Tory sleaze has reached the heart of Downing Street.
The prime minister appears to have used the power of his office to personally hand public money to a billionaire friend in the form of tax breaks. If true, it is clearer than ever there is one rule for the Conservatives and their friends, another for everyone else.
The stench of sleaze has been building up around this Conservative government for months. Boris Johnson must now agree to a full, transparent and independent inquiry into lobbying – and end the scandal of Conservative politicians abusing taxpayer money.
Here is the agenda for the day.
11am: Alex Salmond launches the Alba party manifesto for the Holyrood election.
12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.
After 1pm: MPs debate Lords amendments to the overseas operations bill.
1.30pm: Downing Street is due to hold its daily lobby briefing.
3pm: The Care Quality Commission gives evidence to the joint committee on human rights on Covid regulations and human rights; at 4pm Helen Whately, the care minister, gives evidence.
Covid is the issue dominating UK politics this year and Politics Live is often largely or wholly devoted to coronavirus at the moment. But I will be covering non-Covid politics too and – depending on what seems most important and most interesting to readers – sometimes these stories will take precedence.
For global coronavirus news, do read our global live blog.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘Stench of sleaze’: Labour accuses PM of using his office to give tax breaks to James Dyson – politics live | Politics