Home UK Boris’s revenge? How Prime Minister clashed with Parliament sleaze watchdog Kathryn Stone #Boriss #revenge #Prime #Minister #clashed #Parliament #sleaze #watchdog #Kathryn #Stone

Boris’s revenge? How Prime Minister clashed with Parliament sleaze watchdog Kathryn Stone #Boriss #revenge #Prime #Minister #clashed #Parliament #sleaze #watchdog #Kathryn #Stone

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Boris Johnson‘s astonishing decision to intervene in and attempt to overthrow Parliament’s anti-corruption system last night attacked a standards watchdog who previously targeted him over his own lavish personal lifestyle.

Kathryn Stone, the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, has previously castigated the Prime Minister over a lavish £15,000 Caribbean holiday funded by Tory donors.

But he was saved from punishment – which could have included being the first serving premier to be suspended from the Commons, by MPs who overturned her ruling.

She has also pulled him up over an ‘over-casual attitude’ to declaring his own personal financial interests to Parliament, including a six-figure stake in an English country mansion.

Ms Stone, who has been in post since 2018, last night said she would continue in her vital oversight role, and Boris Johnson’s -turn this morning suggests she is now safe.

But before the change of heart Cabinet ministers this morning attempted to pull the rug from under her, with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng sparking outrage by suggesting she could step down.

Asked whether the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards should resign, Mr Kwarteng told Sky News: ‘I think it’s difficult to see what the future of the commissioner is, given the fact that we’re reviewing the process, and we’re overturning and trying to reform this whole process, but it’s up to the commissioner to decide her position.’

Kathryn Stone, the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, has previously castigated the Prime Minister over a lavish £15,000 Caribbean holiday funded by Tory donors.

She has also pulled him up over an 'over-casual attitude' to declaring his own personal financial interested to Parliament, including a six-figure stake in an English country mansion.

She has also pulled him up over an ‘over-casual attitude’ to declaring his own personal financial interested to Parliament, including a six-figure stake in an English country mansion.

Mr Johnson was dramatically cleared of breaking Commons rules over a 'freebie' trip to the millionaire's playground of Mustique with Carrie - despite Ms Stone condemning his behaviour and the 'unusual' arrangements.

Mr Johnson was dramatically cleared of breaking Commons rules over a ‘freebie’ trip to the millionaire’s playground of Mustique with Carrie – despite Ms Stone condemning his behaviour and the ‘unusual’ arrangements.

Pushed on what he meant by ‘decide her position’, Mr Kwarteng said: ‘It’s up to her to do that. I mean, it’s up to anyone where they’ve made a judgment and people have sought to change that, to consider their position, that’s a natural thing, but I’m not saying she should resign.’

Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire called for the Prime Minister to ‘immediately distance himself from these latest attempts to poison British politics’.

‘Having already ripped up the rules policing MPs’ behaviour to protect one of their own, it is appalling that this corrupt Government is now trying to bully the standards commissioner out of her job,’ the Labour MP added.

Kathryn Stone has proved a thorn in the side of senior MPs in her four years as Standards Commissioner. 

As well as the PM the former social worker also set her sights on John Bercow, now-disgraced former Labour MP Keith Vaz and the DUP’s Ian Paisley Junior, for breaking parliament’s rules.

She replaced Kathryn Hudson in 2018, having previously served as Commissioner for Victims and Survivors in Northern Ireland, a commissioner for the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and Chief Legal Ombudsman.  

Mr Johnson was dramatically cleared in the summer of breaking Commons rules over a ‘freebie’ trip to the millionaire’s playground of Mustique with Carrie – despite Ms Stone condemning his behaviour and the ‘unusual’ arrangements. 

The cross-party Standards Committee found the PM had made an ‘accurate and complete’ declaration about the holiday in December 2019, saying it was a donation from Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross even though the couple did not stay in his villa.

The committee – chaired by Labour MP Chris Bryant – over-ruled Ms Stone after she concluded that Mr Johnson did breach the Code of Conduct for MPs during a 15-month wrangle after initially failing to provide a full explanation, slamming him for ‘not showing the accountability required of those in public life’.

The report also suggested that the premier himself did not know exactly how the jaunt was being funded until after he arrived on Mustique and realised he was not staying in Mr Ross’s own property. 

It marked the latest escape for Mr Johnson after the government’s adviser on ministerial interests said in May that he acted ‘unwisely’ by not being more ‘rigorous’ in finding out who funded lavish refurbishment work on his Downing Street flat – but did not breach the rules. 

The row over Mr Johnson’s holiday from Boxing Day 2019 to January 5, 2020 started after he declared the £15,000 cost was a ‘benefit in kind’ from Mr Ross. 

Mr Ross initially denied having paid for it, and it appears there was a complicated villa swap arrangement that meant Mr Johnson ended up staying in a different property owned by an American family. 

The watchdog and the Prime Minister have been locked in a behind-the-scenes battle over whether he obeyed Commons rules whereby MPs must reveal details of all financial donations and benefits. 

The Commissioner initially found Mr Johnson in breach of paragraph 14 of the Code because he did not ‘make sufficient inquiries to establish the full facts about the funding arrangements for his free accommodation, either before his holiday, as he should have done, or in 2020’.

Ms Stone said the PM should have uncovered ‘definitively who was to fund the free accommodation he had been offered, and what arrangements had been made to pay for it’ before accepting the accommodation.

‘I also find that Mr Johnson has not shown the accountability required of those in public life,’ she added. 

In a brutal memorandum to the committee, Ms Stone wrote: ‘I accept that Mr Johnson had originally expected that the villa would be owned by Mr Ross. 

‘I find it surprising that, when he realised that he was to stay elsewhere, Mr Johnson did not establish the full facts about who was the owner of the villa, how the villa would be funded and the value of the benefit, before accepting the accommodation as a gift. 

‘Mr Johnson has told me that he believes the owners received a payment for his use of the accommodation. 

‘At another point he told me that Mr Ross arranged to meet the ‘notional costs’ by making his own villa available to the Mustique Company on future dates. He has not explained how these two accounts relate to each other.’

She went on: ‘The rules require Members to fulfil ‘conscientiously’ the requirement of the House in respect of the registration of interests in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. 

‘Because he did not make sufficient inquiries to establish the full facts about the funding arrangements for his free accommodation, either before his holiday, as he should have done, or in 2020, I find that Mr Johnson has not fulfilled conscientiously the House’s requirements for registration.’  

In a clear hint that she wanted a more severe punishment than a rap on the knuckles, Ms Stone pointed out that Mr Johnson had ‘breached the registration rules on three previous occasions’. 

Some Tory MPs had feared that if Mr Johnson was found to have broken the rules again the committee would have recommended his suspension from the Commons, the first prime minister to endure such a humiliation.

Mr Johnson has previously been in hot water with the committee – and Ms Stone. 

In 2018, before he became Prime Minister, he made a ‘full and unreserved’ apology to MPs for failing to declare more than £50,000 in income and registering nine payments after the required 28-day deadline.

Most of the payments were for royalties on Mr Johnson’s books – the most prominent of which is a biography of Winston Churchill. 

One was for the first payment he received from the Daily Telegraph for his column, for while he picked up an annual alary of £275,000. 

Then the following year he was forced to make a grovelling apology to the ethics watchdog after failing to declare he part-owned a country house for almost a year.

He bought a 20 per cent share worth more than £100,000 in a Somerset property in late January 2018 and should have registered it with the authorities within 28 days.

But he failed to alert the Commons Standards Committee about his share of the ‘rental property’ until a year later. 

The probe was sparked by Ms Stone’s investigation into the 218 breach. At the time she asked him to confirm his register of interests was up to date and received assurances it was. 

But he then registered the property, stating he had been notified of the purchase of a fifth-share in the building on January 25 the previous year. 

The watchdog said it had received an apology from the Uxbridge MP, who claimed he had been ‘misled’ by the relevant section of the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, which governs what MPs have to reveal about their private financial affairs. 



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#Boriss #revenge #Prime #Minister #clashed #Parliament #sleaze #watchdog #Kathryn #Stone

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