BORIS Johnson is reported to have told his ministerial standards adviser that he did not disclose messages exchanged with a Tory donor about his flat refurbishment because they were on an old phone.

Letters between the Prime Minister and Lord Geidt were published on Thursday afternoon, but Johnson is likely to be cleared again of breaching any ministerial rules over the funding of the redecoration.

In the exchange, Johnson apologised to Geidt for the failure to disclose messages between himself and a Tory peer over the funding of the flat refurbishment. 

Last month, the Electoral Commission revealed that Johnson had sent Tory peer Lord Brownlow a WhatsApp message in November 2020 “asking him to authorise further, at that stage unspecified, refurbishment works on the residence”.

But Johnson had previously said he had no knowledge of the payments until immediately prior to media reports in February 2021.

The investigation prompted Geidt to demand clarification from No 10 amid claims that he had been misled by the Prime Minister.

And the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times have reported that Johnson said the reason he did not disclose the message before was that he had changed his mobile number, and therefore the WhatsApp message was on his old phone.

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Lord Geidt previously cleared Johnson over the refurbishment

Johnson, in a letter released on Thursday, said he was “sorry that the Office of Independent Adviser has been put in this position” and that he can “only repeat the humble and sincere apology” he had already offered Geidt.

The PM said he did not have access to his previous mobile phone, from which the messages had been sent, and “did not recall the message exchange”.

But he said: “A fuller explanation of the circumstances should have been provided at the time of your investigation. I am sorry we did not do so.”

Johnson also said it was “unacceptable” that the Cabinet Office did not inform Geidt of the existence of the messages.

He said Tory peer Lord Brownlow had offered to share the messages with the Cabinet Office but that the department had felt this was inappropriate to receive these while the Electoral Commission was undertaking an investigation.

Johnson said: “It is unacceptable that the Cabinet Office did not at the very least inform you of the position they had taken.”

He added the Electoral Commission’s “preliminary conclusions” had included a “short reference” to the exchange but that it “would not have been straightforward” to have briefed Geidt due to confidentiality restrictions.

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Meanwhile, Geidt expressed his “grave concern” that the missing messages were not provided to him initially or when Boris Johnson’s old phone was accessed in June last year “for another purpose”.

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Johnson apologised to Geidt for not disclosing the WhatsApp messages

He wrote in the December 17 letter: “It is of grave concern to me that, neither at the time when the Cabinet Office was collecting information ahead of my report, nor subsequently when the device had been activated again, was any attempt made to check for information relevant to my enquiries, such as the missing exchange.

“I consider that the greatest possible care should have been taken to assemble all relevant material and this standard has not been met.”

Geidt previously cleared the Prime Minister of breaching the code in relation to the funding of the flat refurbishment.

But the Electoral Commission fined the Conservatives £17,800 after it found the party had not followed the law over donations by Lord Brownlow to help cover the renovations, with costs exceeding £112,500.

The watchdog said the Tories had failed to “accurately report a donation and keep a proper accounting record” of the money handed over by the peer in October 2020.

Downing Street previously insisted that Johnson had not lied to Lord Geidt, and the Telegraph said the adviser was to uphold his initial decision that no rules were broken.

But the newspaper reported he would express his dissatisfaction that he had not been provided with the messages before, and had not been made aware of them before the Electoral Commission investigation was released.

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