A Labour MP just asked the killer question of the Boris Johnson/Dyson scandal

Labour MP Dawn Butler Boris Johnson and James Dyson

During Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday 21 April, Labour’s Keir Starmer and the SNP’s Ian Blackford probed the PM over the emerging James Dyson scandal. But it took a backbench MP’s tweet to actually ask the killer question.

More Tory corruption?

As Press Association (PA) reported, Boris Johnson made “absolutely no apology at all” during PMQs. This was for text message exchanges about Dyson’s concerns about the tax status of his employees. It comes amid claims of corruption – described as ‘sleaze and cronyism’ – in the Tory government.

The BBC reported it has seen a series of text messages between Johnson and Dyson after the latter was unable to get the assurances he was seeking from the Treasury.

The exchanges took place in March last year at the start of the pandemic. It was when the government was appealing to firms to supply ventilators because it was worried the NHS could run out. So, Dyson wrote to the Treasury. He asked for an assurance his staff would not pay extra tax if they came to the UK to work on the project.

But when he failed to receive a reply, the BBC said he took up the matter directly with the PM. It did a mock-up image of the messages:

Johnson Dyson Text Messages

PMQs

During PMQs, Starmer said it was:

Read on...

one rule for those that have got the Prime Minister’s phone number, another for everybody else.

Johnson responded:

I make absolutely no apology at all for shifting heaven and earth and doing everything I possibly could, as I think any prime minister would in those circumstances, to secure ventilators for the people of this country.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford called on Johnson to reveal “how many more Covid contracts he personally fixed”. And he also said the PM should publish all personal exchanges on these contracts. Johnson maintained there was no wrong-doing:

There’s absolutely nothing to conceal about this and I am happy to share all the details with the House, as indeed I have shared them with my officials immediately.

The real Dyson question

But Labour backbencher Dawn Butler wasn’t satisfied with the outcome of PMQs on the issue. She tweeted:

In late April 2020, the government said it wouldn’t be getting the Dyson ventilators. It cancelled an order for thousands of them it had already placed. And Dyson himself wrote in May 2020 that:

Dyson people welcomed the Government’s challenge and, working round the clock, ​developed an entirely new ventilator in 30 days. Mercifully, they are not ​now required ​in the UK… I have some hope that our ventilator may yet help the response in other countries… Dyson has spent around £20m on this project to date, I will be funding this and we will not ​be accepting any public money.

But Sunak told the Commons Treasury Committee last year that the tax status of people who came to the UK to provide specific help during the pandemic would not change. This policy was in place for several months. It essentially stopped people having to pay tax to HMRC when they were paying it in their country of origin.

Breaks for mates

So, as Butler said: did Dyson’s workers get tax breaks for not supplying ventilators? And when did those tax breaks stop?  As with much that Johnson does, the answer is still completely unclear. Of course, it’s not Dyson’s employees’ faults if they did get tax breaks. Ultimately though, the public shouldn’t lose tax revenue because of the government’s actions in cancelling the Dyson contract.

But the story really shows that in the world of Tory business – if you’re a mate of the PM, then anything goes.

Additional reporting via Press Association.

Featured image via Rwendland – Wikimedia, Chatham House – Flickr and Eva Rinaldi – Wikimedia 

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  • Show Comments
    1. A Labour MP just asked the killer question of the Boris Johnson/Dyson scandal
      What a shamble the Tory Gvot is in now under Boris rule (they are perfect)
      //
      This interesting article prove the point to voter the Tory Party now are only
      Hanging onto power to strip our public fund cash money pot (taxpayer money)
      //
      We voter of U.K. NEED to get to grips with this problem fast starting in May 2021 Local Area Cllr seat election if the Tory party in London are behaving badly the Tory Cllr of all areas should be holding them FULLY to account but are Not why?
      Could it be they are benefiting by keeping their mouths shut with public cash funding, so they can or may be paying themselves more out lay in perks on Lancashire-Pendle-Colne Council seat????
      Come May election voter to put a stop to Tory Govt members in London including all local area Tory Cllr from stripping our public finances way for their benefits let’s Not vote for any Tory party Cllr within all of Lancashire area this will certainly get Prime Ministers Boris’s attention then follow up next G.E. and remove Tory party from power voter.
      //
      Before you reply with rubbish posters I do know & understand Labour party are not fit to run our county yet, so we need a new Govt party made up of all party’s members within the H.O. Commons so party member that have let their original party in Govt start working on a new joined up party to run our country before next G.E. time. then tell us voter what you will deliver for us???
      //
      FINALLY!
      Boris this Screwing of our public cash (Taxpayer’s money) for Tory party members rich members to gains ONLY Must STOP -NOW. You have 2 big problem now we voter need full & true answers to Boris Greensill dodgy deals Dyson possible dodgy deals in this article? Boris get up in your NEW room in NO,10 where you Wasted our taxpayer on and tell us live on T.V. you will get back FULLY all our taxpayer money from Greensill dodgy deal including from Mr Hancock family members or tell us you are resigning, or will you be doing a runner on us? X Tory Prime Minister involved in Greensill mess like David Cameron did Boris?

    2. I don’t believe Dyson was lobbying Johnson over his workers’ tax rates. I doubt that would bother him. I think he lobbied Johnson for a waiver to dodge Britain’s minimum wage and to continue paying the wages he pays them in China. That does make sense to lobby over.

    3. It seems to have slipped the memory of many ‘journalists’ that bojo had a name for his ventilator procurement ‘drive’

      Much to the disgust of some of the assembled ‘industrialists’ he invited to join in his grandiose scheme [which managed to exclude ventilator manufacturers, but did include many tory donors] he called it ‘Operation Last Gasp’

      As reported by Politico and Metro at the time

      https://www.politico.eu/newsletter/london-playbook/politico-london-playbook-the-age-of-corona-rishi-leads-the-fightback-commons-rule-change/

      https://metro.co.uk/2020/03/17/boris-johnson-speaks-operation-last-gasp-joke-lack-ventilators-fight-coronavirus-12413785/

      And The Heil

      https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8120551/Coronavirus-Boris-Johnson-hopes-new-ventilators-WEEKS.html

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