The standard watchdog raised the possibility that the PM deliberately withheld flat check texts

A Standards overseer has questioned whether the prime minister was “deliberately” in withholding information from his moral king during the Downing Street flat reform investigation.

Ord Evans of Weardale, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said the recent episode that paid for the £112,000 renovation of the Prime Minister’s official residence in Downing Street showed the need to give additional powers to an independent standards advisor.

Last week, Boris Johnson was forced to issue a “polite and sincere apology” to his standard adviser, Lord Geidt, after he failed to notify him of a WhatsApp exchange he took to Conservative donor Lord Brownlow. About to work on the flat with. investigation.

It is quite clear that the independent consultant feels that the role is not taken as seriously as it should beLord Evans of Weardale

At that time Lord Brownlow was to head a charitable trust for the maintenance of the 11th residence.

Lord Geidt said the messages would not change his conclusion that Mr Johnson had not violated the ministerial code, although he clarified his deep unhappiness over the way the issue was handled.

The prime minister said he did not remember the exchanges and the messages were on an old mobile phone that he did not have access to.

Lord Evans gave evidence to the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) on Tuesday, saying it would be up to the public to decide whether the withholding of information was “deliberate or whether it was reckless”.

The former head of MI5 said, “I think it is absolutely transparent and clear from the exchange of letters last week that the independent advisor did not feel that he was well served by the people who were providing him with the information “

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Standard Adviser to the Prime Minister, Lord Geidt (Dominic Lipinski / PA)

And whether it is intentional or whether it is reckless, people can make their own decisions, and there is no doubt about it.

“But it is quite clear that the Independent Consultant feels that the role is not taken as seriously as it needs to be, and I hope to take it more seriously in the future in light of the exchange of letters.” And I think that’s a positive step.”

He told lawmakers that there looks to be “close cooperation between No 10 and the adviser”, but added that it was “very clear from the correspondence exchange that took place last week that the situation is not where it is needed”.

Lord Geidt has publicly stated that his role needs to be strengthened, with suggestions he may be handed more powers in April – a development Lord Evans welcomed, arguing that the adviser should have his own inquiry. Must be able to provoke.

Lord Evans told the Committee: “I have great hope that the frankly ongoing negotiations between the Independent Adviser and the Prime Minister on the role of the Independent Advisor will, in our view, further improve the arrangements.

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Lord Evans of Weardale (David Mirzoeff/PA)

“We continue to be of the view that the independent advisor should be able to launch his own investigation.”

Meanwhile, Lord Geidt, the Queen’s former private secretary, has written to the PACAC that he expects his position to be “given more authority” by Johnson in the coming months.

He told MPs: “As I wrote in my letter (to the prime minister), this episode shook my confidence precisely because there were potential and real failures of the process in more than one part of the government machinery.

“These failures were, in my view, not due to a lack of investigative powers, but rather they showed inadequate care for the independent advisory role.”

The coworker said he would expect his next annual report in April to be able to “describe the independent advisor’s role in terms of significantly greater authority, independence and influence”, which he said was “in line with the office’s ambitions” The Prime Minister has determined”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, asked by reporters whether the independent adviser should have the power to launch an investigation, said: “We are carefully considering the recommendations that Lord Geidt set out in his most recent letter, I don’t want to pre-empt them. Discussions.”