Boris Johnson has finally broken his silence on ‘tech friend’ Jennifer Arcuri to the London Assembly’s probe into their relationship – only to insist his written evidence remain confidential.
He handed over a document to the Greater London Authority (GLA) on Tuesday but marked it ‘private and confidential’ to keep it from being made public.
The Prime Minister had been given two weeks to fully detail his relationship with the pole-dancing US entrepreneur, who was awarded £126,000 of taxpayer grants, amid allegations of a conflict of interest.
Mr Johnson gave his two-page explanation to the GLA, which is investigating whether the former London mayor abused public funds. It was his first response in a fortnight of stonewalling questions about the ex-model.
Boris Johnson (pictured with Jennifer Arcuri) could be summoned to give evidence to the London Assembly in person
Yesterday sources from GLA based in City Hall rubbished his document as ‘paltry’, with one saying: ‘It does not answer any questions.’
The London Assembly could summon Johnson to give evidence in person about his relationship with Arcuri after his ‘insufficient’ response in writing.
The body says it cannot see the need for secrecy in Boris Johnson’s response regarding his relationship with the businesswoman.
Len Duvall AM, chair of the oversight committee, said the papers contained ‘insufficient’ details.
‘We did finally receive a response from Boris Johnson, through his solicitors, which they have indicated may not be published. At this stage we are respecting that, but we are seeking further clarification,’ he said.
‘Nothing in the response, in our opinion, reflects the need for confidentiality. In fact, the response is insufficient as far as our request for information is concerned.
‘We are focused on our investigation and considering next steps. A number of options are open to us; they include speaking to various people and using our power of summons.
‘There are other investigations under way and we will respect those investigations – in fact we are liaising with the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Pictured: City Hall could summon Boris Johnson to give evidence in person after an Assembly Member branded his written response insufficient
‘We’re now formulating our response to the statements made in the letter and may make further statements once that response is finalised in the coming days.’
Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s Cabinet Office spokesman, said: ‘With an issue as serious as potential abuse of public office, it is absolutely in the public interest that this letter be published. Boris Johnson might think he is above the law but he cannot hide from scrutiny.
‘As a former prime minister said: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” If he fails to answer these questions, he is showing contempt for the inquiry and the people of this country.’
Labour has also called for the Prime Minister’s submitted papers to be published ‘in the public interest’.
Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said: ‘With an issue as serious as potential abuse of public office, it is absolutely in the public interest that this letter be published.
‘Boris Johnson might think he is above the law but he cannot hide from scrutiny. As a former prime minister said, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
‘If he fails to answer these questions, he is showing contempt for the inquiry and the people of this country. This is about the integrity and honesty of the man who is the Prime Minister.’
The police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, is also assessing the allegations because Mr Johnson was the London equivalent of a police and crime commissioner at the time.
Legal experts suggest the PM’s letter could be published. Steve Kuncewicz, of City firm BLM Law, said: ‘Just because you mark something as private and confidential doesn’t automatically make it legally so.’
He argued: ‘If the GLA wanted to make this letter public, they could argue there was nothing confidential in it for the law to protect. They would say it was in the public interest for people to know that.’
A Tory source said: ‘It was marked confidential because, when we send letters, we don’t press release them. The GLA have a track record of turning this issue into a political stunt.
‘They have frequently misled the media on it. It is quite obvious to everyone what is going on, and we don’t have to play their games.’
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘As requested, we have responded to the GLA.’