By Justin Madders

MP for Ellesmere Port

The need for greater scrutiny of financial transactions involving MPs was first established about 30 years ago following the notorious ‘Cash the Questions’ controversy involving, among others, ex-Cheshire MP Neil Hamilton which led to former Prime Minister Sir John Major instigating the Nolan Committee to review standards in public life.

The need for, and importance of, accurate declarations in the Register of Members Interests in the Houses of Parliament was reinforced way back in the 1990s.

Honest, up-to-date information in the register is intended to ensure no-one is allowed to exert undue influence on Ministers and MPs with a view to make personal gain and it is that context that so many questions are being asked about the Prime Minister’s flat refurbishment.

There has to be absolute transparency about who apparently loaned cash to the Prime Minister and his fiancée for the upgrade of the flat they occupy above 11 Downing Street. It is not about whether John Lewis were not considered good enough – although many of us would jump at the chance of acquiring some John Lewis furniture – but about who was paying for a project said to have cost about £58,000. This has only become such a big issue because the PM will not say who paid for the flat refurbishment initially. He won’t say who did because it then becomes about what access and favours were granted for the payment, and whether Government policy or contracts were changed as a result of this. There are plenty of other examples of this happening recently in Government so the fact everyone in Government is going to great lengths not to divulge the identity of this person does lead me to conclude there is something the PM does not want us to know.

An example of the evasion we have seen so far has been when on the floor of the House of Commons I asked Michael Gove, Minister for the Cabinet Office: “Does the Minister know the identity of the person who gave the Prime Minister the money for the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat? Either he does know, in which case he should not be at the Dispatch Box saying there is no problem at all, or he does know, in which case he should just tell us what their name is.”

To which, Michael Gove replied: “The person who paid for the renovations in the Downing Street flat was Boris Johnson.” This was typical obfuscation not answering the question that was asked and shows a determination to avoid naming whoever this person is.

We will now have to wait for the outcome of a formal investigation by the Electoral Commission which believes there are ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect an offence may have been committed in the funding of the flat. The Commission will set out to establish whether any donation was properly declared. Other Parliamentary inquiries into the affair are also ongoing. Crime is going up, NHS waiting times are at record levels and people are worried about their jobs so, yes, there are many other critical issues to be debated and my Opposition colleagues want to do just that. This accommodation refurbishment issue could be put to bed if Boris Johnson would simply declare who lent him the money for the upgrade. What is so important that he wont say?