Boris Johnson Contents

Report

1.This Report arises from a complaint by Mr Anthony Crook that Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP had breached the rules of the House by failing to register remuneration within the required deadline. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has conducted an investigation and supplied us with a memorandum giving the results of that investigation, which is appended to this Report.1

2.The Commissioner has established the facts of the case with Mr Johnson, who does not dispute these. The factual background is set out in detail in the Commissioner’s memorandum and we shall therefore merely summarise it here.

3.The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament requires Members within one month of their election to the House to register their current financial interests, and any registrable benefits (other than earnings) received in the 12 months before their election. After that, Members are required to register within 28 days any change in those registrable interests.2

4.The Register of Members’ Financial Interests as it stood at the start of the Commissioner’s investigation contained nine payments registered by Mr Johnson after the required 28-day deadline. The Commissioner states:

The first of Mr Johnson’s late entries in the Register of 1 October 2018 was made on 20 December 2017. Five of the entries made on that date were outside the 28 day time limit. Mr Johnson next made a late registration on 12 March 2018. On 22 August 2018, he made two more late registrations. On 17 September 2018 he made his ninth late registration in nine months. […] The delay in registering these payments varied; the least delayed registration was one week late, the longest was eleven weeks. The late registrations are, for the most part, royalties or for the sale of rights on books already written.3

5.The nine late registrations had a total value of £52,722.80.4

6.In his response to the Commissioner’s initial approach to him, Mr Johnson stated that:

I have reviewed my register entries for the dates you specify. […] I accept that […] payments may have inadvertently been declared outside of the permitted time. I apologise for any unintended delay in registering changes to my financial interests.5

7.Mr Johnson added that:

the specific instances that you have highlighted are primarily the result of a delay in up to date financial statements being received and duly processed and declared, for which I accept full responsibility and have now taken steps to minimise any likelihood of this happening again including now receiving fortnightly statements.6

8.In further correspondence with the Commissioner, Mr Johnson provided an assurance that all payments within the identified time-period had now been declared. He stated that he had confirmed with his bank and accountant a new system of fortnightly statements that would be copied to him and his office which would enable him to be sure that in future monthly remuneration could be registered in a timely way. He added that he had now appointed one member of staff with sole responsibility for ensuring that the relevant information was available to ensure timely declarations.7

9.The Commissioner has noted that “most of the late registrations are of payments which might reasonably be regarded as unpredictable, in the form of royalties and payments arising from the sale of books already written”. However, she also comments that “these payments cannot have been entirely unexpected and, given that the House has made explicit that it expects Members to fulfil their responsibilities “conscientiously”, it would have been prudent for Mr Johnson to have had an administrative system in place to ensure his compliance with those roles. It appears that he did not arrange that until after I had begun my inquiry.”8

10.The Commissioner continues:

Although Mr Johnson has told me that the late registrations were “inadvertent”, the fact that the late registrations had happened on four separate occasions and involved nine payments, suggests a lack of attention to, or regard for, the House’s requirements rather than oversight or inadvertent error.9

11.The Commissioner concludes that Mr Johnson acted in breach of the House’s rules on the registration of his financial interests. She has referred the matter to the Committee on Standards, rather than using the procedures open to her to rectify the matter herself, because -

[…] the rectification procedure is available only where the financial interests are minor or the breach of the rules were inadvertent. Neither of those criteria are met in this instance.10

12.Mr Johnson’s breach of the rules relating to registration is not in dispute. In considering what sanction would be appropriate, we have followed our usual practice and taken into account both mitigating and aggravating factors.

13.There are several mitigating factors. There are no grounds for supposing that Mr Johnson in any way intended to deceive the House or the general public about the level of his remuneration. Once the issue of late registration had been raised with him, he responded promptly and helpfully to the Commissioner, and he has apologised to her for his breach of the rules. He has also put in place what we trust will be effective measures to ensure that no further breach occurs.

14.Aggravating factors are the size of the sums involved (a total of approximately £53,000, which as the Commissioner points out is equivalent to almost 70 per cent of a Member’s annual salary) and the number of breaches (nine altogether, over a period of nine months). We agree with the Commissioner that this suggests that the breaches were not completely inadvertent but rather arose from an over-casual attitude towards obeying the rules of the House and a lack of effective organisation within Mr Johnson’s office. Whatever the involvement of his office staff, the responsibility for obeying the rules rests with Mr Johnson himself, as he accepts. We also take account of the fact that Mr Johnson has been a member of the House during four Parliaments, and so could be expected to understand the rules; and that until recently he was a senior Minister, indeed the holder of one of the great offices of State, and for that reason could be expected to set an example within the House.

15.We conclude that Mr Johnson breached the rules of the House by failing to register remuneration within the required timetable on nine occasions.

16.We recommend that Mr Johnson should make an apology to the House, on a point of order, for this breach of the rules. We recommend that in that apology he should address the specific comments we make in this Report, and that he should undertake to ensure that his future registrations of remuneration are made in a timely way. We further recommend that the relevant payments be italicised in the Register to indicate that they are late entries.


1 Appendix; written evidence accompanying the Commissioner’s memorandum is published on the Committee’s website.

2 See Appendix, paras 5–8

3 Appendix, paras 14, 16–17

4 Appendix, summary

5 Written evidence item 3 (Letter from Mr Johnson to the Commissioner, 24 October 2018)

6 Ibid.

7 Written evidence item 5 (letter from Mr Johnson to the Commissioner dated 5 November 2018)

8 Appendix, para 19

9 Appendix, para 20

10 Appendix, para 23




Published: 6 December 2018