Government defends Boris Johnson texts to James Dyson on tax status


The government defended the Prime Minister’s actions after it was reported that Boris Johnson had personally promised Sir James Dyson that he would “fix” an issue regarding the tax status of his employees.

The BBC said it saw a series of text messages between the two men after Sir James could not get the assurances he was looking for from the Treasury.

The exchanges took place in March of last year at the start of the pandemic when the government called on companies to supply ventilators, fearing the NHS would run out.

The government said it was right to secure NHS equipment in “extraordinary times”, while Sir James said it was “absurd to suggest that his company was doing anything other than seeking to comply with rules of the Treasury “.

Labor, however, called the disclosures “breathtaking” and said Mr Johnson must now agree to a full and independent investigation into the lobbying.

Sir James, whose company employs thousands of people in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, wrote to the Treasury asking for assurances that his staff would not have to pay extra tax if they came to the UK to work on the project.

However, when he did not receive a response, the BBC said it had raised the matter directly with the Prime Minister.

He said in a text that the company was ready but that “unfortunately” it seemed no one wanted them to proceed.

Mr Johnson replied, “I’ll fix it tomo!” We need you. It looks fantastic.

The Prime Minister then texted him again saying, “(Chancellor) Rishi (Sunak) says it’s settled !! We need you here.

When Sir James then asked for additional assurance Mr Johnson replied: “James, I am the first Lord of the Treasury and you can assume that we are supporting you to do what you need.”

Two weeks later, Mr Sunak told the Commons Treasury Committee that the tax status of people who came to the UK to provide specific assistance during the pandemic would not be affected.

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A government spokesperson said it was right to take action at ‘extraordinary times’ to ensure the NHS has the equipment it needs.

“At the height of the pandemic, there were real fears that we were quickly running out of ventilators, leaving the NHS unable to treat patients and putting many lives at risk,” the spokesperson said.

“As the public would expect, we did all we could at extraordinary times to protect our citizens and have access to the right medical equipment. “

Under the ministerial code, ministers are expected to have an official representative when discussing government business and to report their case to their department as quickly as possible if a conversation takes place where this is not possible.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden defended the Prime Minister’s actions saying it was necessary to move “to pace” in a national crisis.

He said the “concession” on tax rules was only for a very short time and had been reported to Parliament.

“It was not some sort of concession specifically to James Dyson or his employees,” he told BBC Radio 4 Today.

“It was a broader concession for a short period that applied to a range of people involved in medicine, in the production of ventilators, during this short period of crisis.”

Sir James said he was “extremely proud” of his company’s response to “the midst of a national emergency” and that he “would do the same if asked”.

He told the BBC: “When the Prime Minister called me to ask Dyson to urgently build ventilators, of course I said yes.

“Our fan cost Dyson £ 20million, donated free of charge to the national cause, and it is absurd to suggest that urgent correspondence was anything other than following the rules, because 450 people from Dyson – in the UK Uni and Singapore – were working 24/7 to build life-saving equipment at a time of dire need.

Fortunately, they were not needed as medical understanding of the virus evolved. Neither Weybourne (Dyson’s holding company) nor Dyson benefited from the project; indeed, commercial plans were delayed and Dyson voluntarily covered the £ 20million in development costs. “

Sir James also said his company has not claimed “a dime” from governments in any jurisdiction over Covid.

The report comes amid intense controversy in Westminster over lobbying over the disclosure of David Cameron’s activities on behalf of bankrupt financial firm Greensill Capital.

In response, Mr Johnson ordered a review by senior counsel Nigel Boardman.

A spokesperson for the Labor Party said: “These are breathtaking revelations. Boris Johnson is now at the center of the biggest lobbying scandal in a generation, and Tory’s sleaze has reached the heart of Downing Street.

“The Prime Minister appears to have used the power of his office to personally hand over public money to a billionaire friend in the form of tax breaks. If this is true, it is clearer than ever that there is one rule for the Conservatives and their friends, another for everyone.

“The stench of dirt has been building around this Conservative government for months. Boris Johnson must now agree to a full, transparent and independent lobbying inquiry – and end the scandal of Tory politicians abusing taxpayer dollars. “

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