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PM's texts fuel sleaze scandal

Chummy offer to ‘fix’ Dyson tax issue sparks new cronyism backlash

THE government’s sleaze scandal deepened today as leaked texts showed Boris Johnson pledging to “fix” tax issues for billionaire businessman Sir James Dyson.

Labour took the row to Downing Street, with party activists waving wads of “taxpayers’ cash” at No 10 and demanding explanations for the handing of lucrative contracts to “Tory chums.”

Mr Dyson lobbied the Prime Minister for help in March last year, having already approached the Treasury. He appeared to be worried that Dyson company employees coming from overseas to build Covid-19 ventilators in Britain might face extra taxes.

According to a leaked transcript of the texts, the PM told Mr Dyson: “I will fix it tomorrow! We need you. It looks fantastic.”

He then said: “[Chancellor Rishi Sunak] says it is fixed!! We need you here.”

When Mr Dyson sought further assurance, Mr 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, Mr Sunak told the Commons Treasury committee that the tax status of those coming to Britain to provide specific help during the pandemic would not be affected.

The revelations are the latest in a wave of Tory sleaze allegations, following the lobbying scandal involving ex-prime minister David Cameron and his former boss, financier Lex Greensill, along with Mr Sunak and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

In the Commons, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that Mr Johnson could not be trusted to clean up the mess at the heart of government.

Sir Keir said: “Every day, there are new allegations about this Conservative government: dodgy personal protective equipment deals, tax breaks for their mates, the Health Secretary owns shares in a company delivering NHS services.

“Sleaze, sleaze, sleaze and it’s all on [the PM’s] watch.

“With this scandal now firmly centred on him, how on earth does he expect people to believe that he is the person to clean this mess up?”

A Labour statement added: “These are jaw-dropping revelations. Boris Johnson is now front and centre of the biggest lobbying scandal in a generation, and Tory sleaze has reached the heart of Downing Street.

“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.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said that ministers “either no longer know or simply no longer care about the difference between their personal interests and the public interest.

“The public deserve answers to serious questions about billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money being handed out to Tory donors and cronies and dodgy lobbying for commercial gain,” she said.

“An urgent and thorough investigation is needed now to root out this sleaze.”

Mr Johnson said he was “happy to share all the details” of the exchanges as there was “nothing to conceal.”

Sir James made his first millions by inventing a new type of vacuum cleaner.

In 2003, he transferred hundreds of manufacturing jobs from Britain to cheaper labour in Malaysia. 

He announced plans to move Dyson’s HQ from Britain to Singapore in 2019, as well as controversially switching his own residency to the south-east Asian country.

At the time, experts said that the firm could potentially enjoy significant tax benefits by leaving Britain.

It was reported today that the billionaire, who was a vocal supporter of Brexit, has now switched his own residency back to Britain.

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