Boris Johnson has announced that he will publish all of his text messages with businessman James Dyson.
It turns out that Prime Minister Dyson personally promised to “fix” a tax problem after being hired directly by the entrepreneur who wanted to build fans at the height of the coronavirus crisis.
The BBC reported that it saw a series of text messages between Johnson and Dyson after the business owner was unable to get the assurances he wanted from the Treasury Department.
During Wednesday’s PMQs, Labor leader Keir Starmer said the revelations showed that “one rule for those who have the prime minister’s phone number is another for everyone else”.
Labor has also said there is “evidence” that Johnson’s text was in violation of the Ministerial Code.
However, Johnson said he was “happy to share all of the details of the exchange” as there was “nothing to hide”.
The texts came in March last year, at the start of the pandemic, when the government asked companies to supply ventilators for fear the NHS might run out.
Dyson, whose company is now based in Singapore, wrote to the Treasury Department asking for assurances that its employees would not have to pay additional taxes if they came to the UK to work on the project.
However, when he received no response, the BBC said he had taken the matter up with Johnson directly.
He wrote in a text that the company was ready to get to work, but that “unfortunately” nobody wanted them to continue.
Johnson replied, “I’ll fix it tomorrow! We need them. It looks fantastic.”
The Prime Minister then wrote to him again: “[Chancellor] Rishi [Sunak] says it’s fixed !! We need you here “
When Dyson sought further assurance, Johnson replied, “James, I am the first lord of the Treasury [a statutory post held by the prime minister] and you can rest assured that we will help you do what you need. “
Two weeks later, Sunak informed the Commons Treasury Committee that the tax status of anyone who came to the UK to provide specific assistance during the pandemic would not be affected.
According to the Ministerial Code, ministers should have an official gift when discussing government affairs and should report to their department as soon as possible if a meeting takes place where this is not possible. Johnson claims he informed officers “immediately”.
When challenged at PMQs about the problem, he said, “I do not apologize at all for changing heaven and earth and doing everything I believe every Prime Minister under the circumstances to secure fans for the people of this country . ”
Ian Blackford, chairman of SNP Westminster, asked Johnson to disclose “how many more Covid contracts he has personally determined” and to publish all personal exchanges on these contracts.
The Prime Minister said, “There is absolutely nothing to hide and I am delighted to share all the details with the house as I actually shared them with my officials right away.”
Starmer compared the way Johnson responded to Dyson’s concerns to the government’s treatment of steel workers, nurses and three million self-employed who were banned from coronavirus assistance programs.
Nurses “got no text from the prime minister, got a kick in the teeth” with a sub-inflation NHS raise, Starmer said.
This shows once again the extent of the weakness and cronyism that are at the heart of his conservative government, ”he added.