Labour calls on ethics watchdog to look into PM’s flat refurbishment

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Parliament’s morals watchdog has been urged to analyse Boris Johnson’s Downing Street finances aft this week’s sleaze scandal, arsenic Kathryn Stone was said to beryllium undeterred by authorities attempts to undermine her.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s lawman leader, called connected Stone, the parliamentary standards commissioner, to unfastened a caller probe into the refurbishment of the premier ministerial flat, which reportedly outgo £200,000 and was initially funded by a Tory donor.

It comes aft the authorities attempted to overthrow a ruling by Stone successful narration to lobbying by the Conservative MP Owen Paterson. Ministers besides tried to overhaul the strategy designed to ace down connected sleaze. Rayner accused the premier curate of trying to instal a “sham radical of Tory stooges who would bash his bidding”.

On Friday Johnson threw down the gauntlet to Stone by refusing to declare the costs of his Marbella vacation past month, which was funded by the household of the Tory adjacent and curate Zac Goldsmith.

Amid increasing choler implicit the sleaze debacle, a Conservative erstwhile subordinate of the standards committee said it was “quite convenient” timing for Johnson to beryllium trying to “trash the existing disciplinary system” successful an effort to flight scrutiny of his ain actions.

Stone has said she volition determine whether to analyse the refurbishment of No 11 Downing Street erstwhile the Electoral Commission has completed its ain investigation. The committee is understood to person completed its enquiry and has handed a draught of its findings to the Conservative party.

Allies of Stone respect this week’s chaotic events successful parliament arsenic portion of an effort to undermine her authority, but 2 sources told the Guardian she was undeterred and would proceed to instrumentality a robust attack to investigating MPs’ conduct. On Wednesday she released a connection saying she intended to stay successful station until the extremity of her word successful December 2022.

Rayner said successful a missive to Stone connected Friday that Johnson’s behaviour this week successful trying to shield Paterson by changing the standards strategy “demonstrates that the premier curate is intelligibly attempting to disempower the relation of the parliamentary commissioner for standards and adjacent region you from your station astatine a clip erstwhile helium is facing a imaginable probe by you for breaching the rules yet again”.

She added: “This concern is profoundly concerning for each of america who judge successful ideology and basal standards of decency, integrity and honesty successful nationalist life. This concern besides makes it each the much important that you are capable to transportation retired your probe into whether the premier curate broke the rules successful narration to the financing of the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, conscionable arsenic helium broke the rules connected a fig of occasions successful the past.”

Rayner said the government-backed effort to overhaul the standards strategy by creating a caller committee chaired by a Tory MP was an effort to “make Conservative MPs justice and assemblage implicit allegations of corruption and rule-breaking”, adding it was a “blatant attempt” to forestall the Stone from investigating him.

Dominic Grieve, a erstwhile Tory subordinate of the standards committee, said Johnson’s involution “clearly could lone beryllium interpreted connected the ground that helium intended to rubbish the committee and the commissioner and undermine them”.

He added: “What this radical of ministers – led by this premier curate – person done is to accidental this is simply a chum whom we are going to help. And successful doing truthful it doesn’t substance if we trash the existing disciplinary system, which leaves it successful tatters for the future. And it conscionable truthful happens that astatine the aforesaid time, well, that mightiness beryllium rather convenient, due to the fact that the premier curate himself mightiness beryllium the taxable of its scrutiny soon implicit his issues of non-declaration.”

The question of whether the authorities is trying to oust Stone was underlined erstwhile Conservative office issued guidance to Tory MPs connected however to reply the question astir whether she should resign. It did not archer them to disagree but lone to accidental changes to the standards strategy were “about strengthening the process much broadly”.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a Tory grandee and erstwhile seat of the standards and privileges committee, told the Guardian helium was “genuinely worried” the Conservatives’ estimation was being “seriously being damaged by events of this kind”.

He said Downing Street should confess it “got it wrong” and “show immoderate contrition fixed the mode they’ve utilized the powerfulness they person got has not been successful the champion nationalist involvement and won’t hap again”. He added: “They’ve got to amusement that they’re learning from experience, that this is not the mode either to dainty the House of Commons oregon the state arsenic a whole. The estimation of the authorities volition not conscionable beryllium temporarily but perchance permanently damaged, if the nationalist presume that this benignant of behaviour was going to proceed each truthful often.”

Downing Street declined to regularisation retired the anticipation Johnson could nominate Paterson for a peerage contempt the erstwhile MP being recovered to person committed an “egregious” breach of parliamentary rules connected paid lobbying.