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‘I make absolutely no apology at all’ over texts to businessman James Dyson, says Boris Johnson

Johnson sent the businessman a text about the tax status of his workers: “I will fix it tomo! We need you.”

Image: PA Images

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has said he makes “absolutely no apology at all” for text message exchanges about businessman James Dyson’s concerns about the tax status of his employees, amid claims of “sleaze and cronyism” in his government.

The Prime Minister personally promised James Dyson he would “fix” an issue over the tax status of his workers after he was directly lobbied by the entrepreneur, who was seeking to build ventilators at the height of the coronavirus crisis.

Johnson said he was “happy to share all the details” of the exchanges as there was “nothing to conceal”.

Labour leader Keir Starmer suggested it was “one rule for those that have got the Prime Minister’s phone number, another for everybody else”.

The BBC said it has seen a series of text messages between Johnson and Dyson after the businessman was unable to get the assurances he was seeking from the Treasury.

The exchanges took place in March last year at the start of the pandemic, when the UK government was appealing to firms to supply ventilators amid fears the NHS could run out.

Dyson, whose firm is now based in Singapore, wrote to the Treasury asking for an assurance that his staff would not have to pay additional tax if they came to the UK to work on the project.

But when he failed to receive a reply, the BBC said he took up the matter directly with the British Prime Minister.

He said in a text that the firm was ready but that “sadly” it seemed no-one wanted them to proceed.

Johnson replied: “I will fix it tomo! We need you. It looks fantastic.”

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The Prime Minister then texted him again saying: “[Chancellor] Rishi [Sunak] says it is fixed!! We need you here.”

When Sir James then sought a further assurance, Johnson replied: “James, I am First Lord of the Treasury and you can take it that we are backing you to do what you need.”

Two weeks later, Sunak told the Commons Treasury Committee that the tax status of people who came to the UK to provide specific help during the pandemic would not be affected.

Labour has claimed that there is “evidence” that Johnson may have breached the ministerial code with the texts.

A spokesman for Starmer told reporters: “There is evidence that the code may very well have been breached and we will be following that up in the coming days.”

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