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21.04.2021 18:12 News >> UK: New Lobbying Scandal After Premier's Texts Surface

UK: New Lobbying Scandal After Premier's Texts Surface

Text message exchange between Boris Johnson and James Dyson over taxes as reported by BBC draws fire from Labour.

The British government was embroiled in a new lobbying scandal on Wednesday after the BBC reported on a text message exchange between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and a billionaire inventor about taxes on the inventor's employees if they came to the UK to make ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both the government and entrepreneur James Dyson have defended their actions, but the opposition Labour Party call the latest revelations proof of a new era of sleaze in British politics.
Dyson wrote to the Treasury in March 2020 to make sure his employees, based in Singapore, would not face more taxes if they returned to the UK to help make ventilators, among surging demand due to the virus.
After getting no response, he texted Johnson that until the issue was fixed his company could not proceed.
According to the BBC, Johnson texted him back: "I will fix it tomo! We need you. It looks fantastic."
He later texted Dyson: "Rishi says it is fixed!! We need you here," referring to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.
Dyson texted Johnson to seek further reassurances, to which Johnson replied: "James, I am First Lord of the Treasury and you can take it that we are backing you to do what you need."
Two weeks later, Sunak told the Treasury Select Committee that the tax status of those arriving to provide specific help during the pandemic would not be affected.
'Hugely proud'
In a statement to Sky News, Dyson said: "When the prime minister rang me to ask Dyson to urgently build ventilators, of course I said yes.
"We were in the midst of a national emergency and I am hugely proud of Dyson's response – I would do the same again if asked.
"Our ventilator cost Dyson £20m ($27.8 million), freely given to the national cause, and it is absurd to suggest that the urgent correspondence was anything other than seeking compliance with rules, as 450 Dyson people – in UK and Singapore – worked around the clock, seven days a week to build potentially life-saving equipment at a time of dire need.
"Mercifully they were not required as medical understanding of the virus evolved.
"Neither Weybourne nor Dyson received any benefit from the project, indeed commercial projects were delayed, and Dyson voluntarily covered the £20m of development costs.
"Not one penny was claimed from any government, in any jurisdiction, in relation to COVID-19."
A government spokesman said: "At the height of the pandemic, there were genuine fears that we would quickly run out of ventilators, leaving the NHS (National Health Service) unable to treat patients and putting many lives at risk.
"As the public would expect, we did everything we could in extraordinary times to protect our citizens and get access to the right medical equipment."
'Jaw-dropping'
A Labour Party spokesperson said: "These are jaw-dropping revelations. Boris Johnson is now front and center of the biggest lobbying scandal in a generation, and Tory sleaze has reached the heart of Downing Street.
"The prime minister appears to have used the power of his office to personally hand public money to a billionaire friend in the form of tax breaks. If true, it is clearer than ever there is one rule for the Conservatives and their friends, another for everyone else.
"The stench of sleaze has been building up around this Conservative government for months. Boris Johnson must now agree to a full, transparent and independent inquiry into lobbying – and end the scandal of Conservative politicians abusing taxpayer money."
The latest revelation comes amid the continued fallout of former Prime Minister David Cameron lobbying high-ranking politicians and civil servants on behalf of Greensill Capital, a failed financial firm.
A series of reviews and inquiries have been launched into the Greensill scandal, one of which was ordered by Johnson personally to be carried out by senior lawyer Nigel Boardman. -



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