UK adviser says he will publish any advice to PM Johnson on flat refurbishment

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a virtual news conference to announce changes to lockdown rules in England at Downing Street, in London, Britain May 10, 2021. Dan Kitwood/Pool via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain's independent adviser on ministers' behaviour said on Thursday he would publish any advice he gives to Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the refurbishment of his Downing Street apartment and declarations of his own interests.

Britain's Electoral Commission has launched an investigation into the funding of work on the prime minister's apartment in Downing Street, saying there were grounds to suspect an offence had been committed. Johnson says he has followed the rules and covered the costs of the refurbishment.

Christopher Geidt, who was announced as independent adviser on ministers' interests in April, said he had two immediate tasks, which included looking at the financing of the refurbishment at Downing Street.

He would "consider all the facts relating to the refurbishment of the prime minister's flat and indeed to advise him on his own declaration of interests," Geidt told lawmakers.

"I would plan to publish that advice alongside the declaration of interests," he said, adding that he would be able to publish his advice in a timely manner.

The independent adviser is appointed by the prime minister to advise him on the government's ministerial code of conduct, and aims to advise ministers on managing their private interests to avoid any potential or perceived conflicts of interest.

His predecessor quit after disagreeing with Johnson over allegations that interior minister Priti Patel broke the ministerial code by shouting and swearing at staff, and there has been criticism the role does not allow the adviser to start his own inquiries nor independently publish his findings.

Patel denied the charges.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; writing by Michael Holden)

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