Downing Street Flat
Downing Street is an historic working complex containing several buildings and two ministerial residences, and the Government is legally required to maintain Downing Street buildings to standards appropriate to their Grade I and Grade II listed status. As I am sure you can imagine, their status as well as security and other factors, can lead to a significantly increased cost for maintenance and repairs.
Prime Ministers across successive governments have been provided with an allowance of up to £30,000 a year to contribute to the maintenance and furnishing of residency in the Downing Street estate. The cost of the wider refurbishment you mention has been met by the Prime Minister personally.
At all times, the Government and Ministers have acted in accordance with the appropriate codes of conduct. Cabinet Office officials have been engaged and informed throughout and official advice has been followed. Subject to advice from the new Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, Lord Geidt, the Prime Minister will be making any necessary declaration in line with the requirements of the Ministerial Code.
I understand that the Conservative Party has put out a statement as follows: “We believe all reportable donations have been transparently and correctly declared and published by the Electoral Commission. We will continue to work constructively with the Electoral Commission on this matter.”
The overriding aim throughout has been to reduce the need for taxpayers’ money to fund the works and maintain a listed building owned by the nation. Matters concerning current works to the Downing Street estate, including residences, more broadly are covered in the Cabinet Office annual report and accounts.
David Cameron and Greensill
I am concerned about what has emerged regarding David Cameron and his involvement with the financial services firm Greensil, as I would be about any current or former Minister where there is any report of potential impropriety. Transparency and probity are essential to maintaining the trust of the British people in our democracy. I am glad that the Prime Minister has announced an independent review into the awarding of contracts for supply chain finance in which Greensill specialised. The review will examine how contracts were secured and how businesses engaged with the Government including the role of individuals. It will be led by senior lawyer, Nigel Boardman.
I do not believe that a Parliamentary inquiry conducted by a new Parliamentary Committee, as proposed by the Opposition Party, would have been helpful, as it would have duplicated work already being undertaken by the Government. The Government is currently undertaking a post-legislative review of Part 1 of the Lobbying Act 2014 in line with the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption Secretariat, and in addition to the independent review by Nigel Boardman.
Existing Parliamentary Committees also have the power to conduct inquiries as they see fit. The Public Accounts and Constitutional Affairs Committee is responsible for examining the quality and standards of administrations in government and the Committee on Standards in Public Life examines conduct across public life. The Treasury Select Committee has already launched an inquiry into Greensill.
I absolutely condemn the sort of lobbying that brings Parliament and elected officials into disrepute. It is incumbent on all those in public life to act with integrity and I look forward to the conclusion of the existing reviews in due course.
The fundamental purpose of our nuclear weapons is to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression. A minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent assigned to the defence of NATO, remains essential in order to guarantee our security and that of our Allies.
Security is a top priority for the UK Government, and therefore whilst we still need to maintain our nuclear stockpile, the spending is vital. I would like to reassure you that the UK remains deeply committed to our collective long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons, under the framework of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. Until then, we must hold the minimum number of nuclear warheads necessary to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent.
In 2010, the Government stated an intent to reduce our overall nuclear warhead stockpile ceiling from not more than 225 to not more than 180 by the mid-2020s. However, in recognition of the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats, this is no longer possible, and the UK will move to an overall nuclear weapon stockpile of no more than 260 warheads.
Thank you for contacting me on the matter of Dominic Cummings. I have received an unprecedented number of emails on this matter. I have replied to the first 1000 but I am now no longer replying, as there is nothing further I can say that will change the situation, but I will continue to read and digest your concerns. I am, however, concerned that there are constituents here in North Devon that need help with all sorts of other matters that I cannot assist whilst replying to the barrage of emails on this one topic. I have heard your anger, and I have communicated it back to Westminster.
And like you, I have felt a mixture of anger, disappointment and frustration in recent days.
We are all making significant sacrifices and coping with situations we could not imagine just a few months ago. Many of us have lost people in our lives and have not been able to see family and friends. It has been incredibly tough for everyone.
I do not personally know Mr Cummings. All I know of his behaviour in recent weeks is the frank and open statement he has given to the national media, where he explained why he took the decisions he did as a father and a husband. I prefer not to judge unless I am aware of all the facts, particularly as there seems to be a lot of misinformation in the media these days often generated by social media assaults on individuals.
Over 1000 people have contacted me regarding Mr Cummings and I wanted to ensure I knew as much as possible before responding. I have read each and every email sent to me on this topic. I have raised questions which I felt needed answering and made the strength of feeling in North Devon clear to the party leadership.
I will not rehearse the timeline of events with you in this reply. I am sure you either watched the press conference or have since read about it.
Although I believe his actions were motivated by his desire to do what he felt was necessary to protect his family in exceptional circumstances, if placed in the same situation, I do not believe I would have made the same decisions. I would have also considered my own position. I am a big believer in taking responsibility for one’s self and the decisions we each take.
However, the Prime Minister knows far more of what has happened throughout the pandemic than you or I. He has taken his decision to retain the services of his advisor who is an employee and not an elected representative.
As I have already made clear to the party leadership, this has been a deeply unhelpful distraction we could do without as a nation dealing with a pandemic.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for following the guidance which has helped save lives. This has significantly reduced the prevalence of the virus across our country. It has also reduced the rate of infection (R), which has given the Government the opportunity to take steps to reduce restrictions and re-open society.
I very much hope the Government can now move on from this as there are so many other pressing matters associated with Covid-19 that need attention. As your MP, I will continue to focus my efforts on the hundreds of emails I continue to receive daily, on other topics, from constituents requiring my help and support.
I would be doing a disservice to you and those who need help during this difficult time if I acted in any other way.