• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

Sir Bernard Jenkin says ministers need some privacy amid claims about who leaked PM-Dyson texts.

Apr 23, 2021

image copyrightUK Parliament
Ministers should not be “locked away in ivory towers” with people unable to contact them, a top Tory MP has said.
Sir Bernard Jenkin said they should be able to carry out conversations about policy in private.
His intervention comes after the leaking of texts between Boris Johnson and Sir James Dyson about tax rules.
The BBC – which published the texts – said it did not discuss its sources, after claims the leak came from Mr Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings.
Downing Street says an inquiry will be held in to who leaked the texts.
Sir Bernard heads parliament’s Liaison Committee of senior MPs.
On Wednesday, he rejected a call from Labour to hold an urgent investigation in to the conduct of the Mr Johnson after the party accused the PM of offering a “tax break” to a “chum”.
It came after the BBC published text messages between Mr Johnson and Sir James in which the prime minister agreed to “fix” concerns businessman Sir James had over his employees’ tax bills if they moved to the UK to make ventilators at the start of the pandemic.
image captionBernard Jenkin regularly grills the PM at the liaison committee
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Bernard said ministers should not be “locked away” and “out of touch with the real world with people unable to contact them”.
“The government is now under intense scrutiny, every meeting, every conversation that ministers have had with their officials,” he said.
“What’s got to come out of this is obviously a system of managing conflicts of interest, which commands more public confidence, and is more rigorous, but also a balance. There has to be a balance.”
But Sir Bernard added it would “stifle proper conversation within government departments if all this is effectively a public conversation”, because “ministers and officials have got to be able to discuss policy options in private”.
Some newspapers quote anonymous Downing Street sources blaming Mr Cummings, who was forced out of government after an internal power struggle, for the leaks.
Mr Cummings has not accepted invitations to respond to the reports. So far, no evidence of his involvement in the leaks has been produced.
In a statement, the BBC said: “We do not discuss our sources.”
Labour says the bigger issue behind the texts is whether some prominent business people have been given privileged access to government because they are friends of the Conservatives.