UK launches leak inquiry into Boris Johnson tax texts to businessman

The former prime minister was directly contacted by inventor James Dyson over tax status for his employees.

UK launches leak inquiry into Boris Johnson tax texts to businessman

LONDON — The U.K. government has launched an inquiry into how texts between Boris Johnson and billionaire inventor James Dyson leaked to the media.

The BBC revealed on Wednesday that the businessman had texted the U.K. prime minister last March to seek assurances his staff would not face a change in tax status if they came to Britain to help make ventilators in response to the COVID pandemic. Johnson responded: “I will fix it.”

The messages have plunged the government into a fresh lobbying row, and come amid the Greensill scandal which saw former Prime Minister David Cameron lobby ministers on behalf of a now-defunct finance firm.

The new probe will be run by the Cabinet Office, according to Johnson’s official spokesman, who declined to give the name of anyone leading it.

No.10 on Wednesday said it would not investigate the source of the texts, but the spokesman said the government’s position had “changed from yesterday.”

“As you would expect, we continually look at this and the position we decided today is that we want to make sure we have this internal inquiry into that,” he added.

The inquiry will be restricted to finding the source of leaks of private communications between Johnson and Dyson. Downing Street will also, the spokesman said, “shortly” publish correspondence between the two men after Johnson told MPs he would be happy to share details.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, demanded to know how many businesspeople have been given similar “preferential treatment.” Johnson has said it was “entirely the right thing to do to work with all potential makers of ventilators”.