Boris Johnson is reportedly due to be cleared of breaking the ministerial code over payments for his Downing Street flat refurbishment after an independent adviser looked into whether he had been misled during an initial investigation.
Lord Geidt led an inquiry that cleared the prime minister of wrongdoing in May, but is understood to have looked into a discrepancy between the findings in his report and another into the same matter published earlier this month by the Electoral Commission.
The issue centred on claims a Tory peer footed the bill for refurbishments to the No 11 flat. In his first set of findings, Geidt, the adviser on ministerial interests, said Johnson told him “he knew nothing about such payments” until immediately prior to media reports in February 2021.
However the Electoral Commission’s own investigation said it had seen a WhatsApp message showing Johnson had been in direct contact with the donor, Lord Brownlow, in November 2020 about the flat refurbishment.
Brownlow made a £58,000 donation to the Conservatives but the Electoral Commission found it was not declared properly and fined the party £17,800.
According to the Financial Times, Geidt sought an explanation from Johnson and exchanged several letters with the prime minister that could be published in the new year.
The newspaper also said Johnson’s behaviour was to be “criticised” and that Geidt had described the situation to colleagues as “deeply unsatisfactory” but would not change his ruling that Johnson had not broken the ministerial code.
The result of the inquiry has been closely watched, given it could prompt the launching of another inquiry by the parliamentary standards commissioner, Kathryn Stone, into whether Johnson broke the MPs’ code of conduct.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We do not comment on speculation.”
They also pointed to the terms of reference of Geidt’s inquiry, which said the advice Geidt gives to Johnson “will be published in a timely manner”.
Asked previously if Johnson had lied to Geidt, the prime minister’s spokesperson said: “No.”
Reports the prime minister is to be cleared have sparked anger from Labour. The party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said: “After the Electoral Commission ruled that the Conservative party broke the law on declaring donations, the prime minister has made a mockery of the standards the public has a right to expect.
“While the British public is facing a cost of living crisis, Boris Johnson is busy writing to his own adviser about why he did not give him all of the information he needed for his investigation.
“Lord Geidt should publish all his correspondence with the prime minister as a first step towards providing full transparency into how Boris Johnson is explaining away his WhatsApp messages with Tory donors.
“It is embarrassing that when the country needs real leadership, Boris Johnson is busy trying to clear up his own personal mess.”