Boris Johnson faces a grilling from MPs over unanswered questions about how he funded the luxury refurbishment of his private flat in No.10.
Trade secretary Liz Truss was sent out to face broadcasters on Sunday and was unable to deny that her boss had been given a loan for the work by Tory donors.
Labour is urging the Speaker to summon the prime minister to parliament on Monday for an urgent question addressing the cronyism scandal engulfing Downing Street.
In excruciating Sunday morning interviews the cabinet minister Ms Truss kept repeating carefully-worded lines that the prime minister had “met the cost of the flat refurbishment” and had not broken the rules.
But she repeatedly deflected questions about whether the PM had been given a loan from political donors, and when he had paid. She also refused to say when details about what money had changed hands would be released.
The furore was sparked after Mr Johnson’s own former chief of staff Dominic Cummings alleged that the prime minister had sought donors to fund the lavish overhaul – describing the plan as “unethical, foolish and possibly illegal”.
“I have been assured that the rules have been fully complied with and I know that he has met the costs of the flat refurbishment,” she told Sky News.
“I absolutely believe and trust that the Prime Minister has done that.”
Asked specifically whether the prime minister had been given a loan for the project, she added:
“What people want to know is that in line with the rules the Prime Minister has met the cost of this refurbishment. That has happened. All the costs will be declared in line with the rules. That, as far as I am concerned, completely answers that question.”
The same run-around performance was repeated on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, with Ms Truss sticking to the same very tightly-worded answer.
Speaking on Sunday morning Labour’s Jess Phillips called for a “root and branch” independent inquiry into the use of taxpayers’ money under Boris Johnson’s government.
Confirming that the party would be seeking an urgent question in parliament on the issue, she said that “integrity really, really matters”.
“The truth of the matter is we don’t know the truth and we’ve got scrapping between two very powerful men who seem more interested in who’s lying about what and who’s leaking what than the substantive of the issue,” the shadow minister to Sky News.
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“That is whether contracts get given out by text messages, whether tax breaks get given out by text messages or whether the Prime Minister uses his pals to get money to have his flat done up.
“Whether I back Dominic Cummings’ view or Boris Johnson’s view, what we need is a proper independent inquiry where it isn’t about two boys fighting and is about taxpayers in our country.”