EMBARGO: IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Liberal Democrats are calling on Rishi Sunak to cancel Boris Johnson’s partygate legal fund, as analysis by the party reveals the money could have been used to fund over 88,500 free school meals for children.
Johnson has reportedly been provided with up to £219,000 in taxpayer funded legal support for the privileges committee partygate investigation, with an initial contract of £129,000 followed by an extension of £90,000. This would be enough to fund 88,532 free school meals at a cost of about £2.47 per meal.
It comes as the Ethics Adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus confirmed to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee today that his powers are limited to investigations ordered by the current prime minister Rishi Sunak, and that he can’t investigate former PMs, even if there are concerns over a serious breach of standards.
The Liberal Democrats have criticised this narrow scope and are calling on Rishi Sunak to give the ethics adviser more powers to work independently from the PM, including investigating former Prime Minister Boris Johnson for any serious breaches of the Ministerial Code. This should include his reported access to a credit facility worth up to £800,000, secured by a distant relative of Johnson’s, Sam Blyth, which was not publicly declared.
Liberal Democrat Chief Wendy Chamberlain MP said:
“It is outrageous that children are left to go hungry in school while the Government forks out over £200 thousand on legal fees for Boris Johnson, after he broke the law and lied about it.
“Endless Conservative chaos and sleaze has been destroying trust in politics and Rishi Sunak is failing to tackle it. Our NHS is on its knees, hard working families cannot pay heating bills and our children are going hungry instead of learning.
“It can’t be one rule for Conservative MPs and another for everyone else. Boris Johnson cannot continue to receive taxpayer money for his legal fees and Rishi Sunak needs to allow the Ethics Adviser to investigate his conduct.”
Notes to Editor:
The Guardian has reported that the Government signed off a contract initially worth £129,000 to provide taxpayer-funded legal support to Johnson during the investigation by the Privileges Committee. An extension to the contract was ordered in December 2022 at an extra cost of £90,000.
The schools National Funding Formula for 2022-23 allocates £470 to schools for each pupil that is eligible for free school meals. DfE guidance (here, p. 21) says that this funding is broadly intended to cover the cost of providing the free lunches. The Department assumes that a pupil will take 190 lunches over the course of the school year, meaning that each meal attracts approximately £2.47 in funding.
(£129,000 + £90,000) ÷ (£470 ÷ 190) = 88,531.9 individual school meals
Liberal Democrats are campaigning to extend free school meals to all children in households receiving Universal Credit.
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