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Body with power to suspend MPs could investigate Boris Johnson flat refurb 

Boris Johnson’s flat refurbishments could be investigated by parliament’s standards commissioner, a body with powers that can lead to suspensions of MPs or byelections if serious breaches have occurred, the Guardian understands.

The commissioner, Kathryn Stone, has received a complaint from Labour asking her to investigate any potential breach of the MPs’ code of conduct. Stone also keeps the House of Commons’ register of financial interests.

An investigation by the standards commissioner would mean Johnson would be fighting a battle on multiple fronts over the payments for the redecoration of his No 11 Downing Street flat.

The Electoral Commission launched a formal investigation on Wednesday, saying there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect multiple offences may have been committed.

Boris Johnson attempts to brush off No 11 refurbishment row – video
Boris Johnson attempts to brush off No 11 refurbishment row – video

It came amid reports the prime minister was given a £58,000 loan from a Conservative donor and peer to help foot the bill for redecorations to the No 11 residence, which ministers and the Tory party have not denied. Johnson has only said he has now paid for the works himself.

The cabinet secretary, Simon Case, the boss of the civil service, has been asked by Johnson to investigate how donations were declared. Johnson has also tasked Lord Geidt, his newly appointed adviser on ministerial standards, with investigating his donations.

An investigation by Stone, if confirmed, would mean Johnson facing four separate inquiries.

The PM has described the row over the refurbishment payments as a “farrago of nonsense”.

Under the 2015 Recall of MPs Act, Stone has the power to refer the most serious cases to the committee on standards for sanctions, which can include ordering a temporary suspension of MPs from parliament. That could trigger a byelection if the suspension is longer than 10 sitting days.

In 2018, the DUP MP Ian Paisley Jnr was suspended from the Commons for 30 days for failing to declare two holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government, and lobbying on its behalf. The suspension triggered a recall petition – which would have lead to a byelection if signed by 10% of constituents, though that threshold was not met.

Tim Durrant, associate director for the Institute for Government, said it was legitimate to investigate Johnson as a member of parliament. “He is also an MP. If there have been donations, they should have been declared to parliament as well,” he said.

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