Boris Johnson said on Thursday he would be willing to comply with the Election Commission’s formal investigation into whether rules were broken in funding the renovation of his Downing Street apartment, Labor calling to a parliamentary inquiry into his conduct.
Speaking during a visit to a school in London, the British Prime Minister said he had full confidence in the commission to investigate suspected donations for the renovation of his residence.
But Johnson repeated his insistence that the public was more interested in the fight against the coronavirus than in the growing number of investigations that have emerged into the so-called ‘harassment’ which opposition Labor says , swirls around Johnson and the ruling Tories.
“We’re going to comply with whatever they want and I don’t think there is anything to see here or to worry about,” he said. “I think what people are focusing on overwhelmingly is not that kind of problem, but what we are doing to get this country through the pandemic.”
His comments came as Margaret Hodge, an upper Labor suburb, urged Parliament’s Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone to investigate whether Johnson had violated the MP’s code of conduct over alleged donations linked to renovation of the apartment.
In a letter, sent Thursday afternoon, Hodge called on Stone to survey funding for the renovation and determine whether Johnson had declared possible donations in the correct manner.
“Boris Johnson’s utter disregard for the rules cannot be ignored. Any cronyism, sleaze or transgression of the rules on his part must be the subject of a thorough investigation ”, she said. tweeted Thursday.
Stone can refer serious cases to the Standards Committee, which has the power to order a temporary suspension of Members of Parliament in extreme circumstances.
The news follows an announcement by the Election Commission, which said on Wednesday it was formally investigating funding for the work on the apartment and whether this had been correctly reported.
A leaked email Last week, Tory peer Lord David Brownlow made an undeclared donation of £ 58,000 for the renovation of Johnson’s apartment, according to the Daily Mail.
The commission said it decided to launch a full investigation after being “satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that one or more offenses may have occurred,” after initially contacting the Conservative Party in March.
The survey is one of three surveys exploring how the money was spent on renovating the apartment. But unlike the other two probes ordered by Downing Street – one by the new independent adviser on ministerial interests Lord Christopher Geidt and the other by cabinet secretary Simon Case – the commission’s investigation is truly independent, experts say.
They said it’s the commission’s legal powers – which allow it to demand documents, as well as texts and emails, and question people with caution – that sets it apart.
In contrast, after Johnson refused to commit to releasing Geidt’s findings in their entirety, Labor argued that the new role of advising on ministerial interests was unnecessary because it lacked real powers.
As the regulator of elections and political financing, the commission has the power to impose fines and, if it finds that a criminal offense has been committed, to refer the matter to the police.
“The Election Commission investigates breaches of the law and does so in a formal and legal context as a regulator with the power to impose sanctions,” said David Howarth, professor at Cambridge University and former member of the Commission.
“This is completely different from the investigations carried out by two people who could be fired by Boris Johnson and who have no legal status or legal power.”
The length of the investigation will be determined by the degree of cooperation of the individuals being investigated and the complexity of the case, Howarth added. He said the commission was known for its “methodical and careful processes”.
Lord John Horam, a lifelong Conservative peer and former commissioner, said the independence of the regulator was essential for it to do its job. The commissioners are appointed by a cross-party group of Members and approved by the House of Commons.
“He is totally independent and accountable to Parliament – he reports to the Speaker of the House,” he said.
Some senior leaders in the Conservative Party have a different view of the commission given its recent history of investigations.
Most recently, the regulator has upset many Tories over its handling of the polling holiday campaign finance investigation, which included prominent Tories on its advisory board, including Johnson.
The commission fined the group £ 61,000 in 2018 but then had to drop the £ 20,000 fine it imposed on Darren Grimes, who led a separate campaign group. The investigation also triggered a police investigation, which was fall in May of last year.
Write in the Telegraph months later, Conservative co-chair Amanda Milling called for an overhaul of the independent body, arguing it was “irresponsible, with little outside challenge or scrutiny of its decisions.”
This sentiment was echoed by House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, who told parliament that the committee “needs serious reform”.
A Tory backbench MP called the commission “incompetent,” adding: “The only organization that shouldn’t be investigating anything is the Election Commission and the sooner it is abolished the better.”