A Tory party chairman has suggested that Boris Johnson could break the law by refusing to be questioned by the London Assembly over his association as mayor with American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri.
A report in the Sunday Times found that Arcuri, Johnson’s close friend, had been given access to business trips with him and public funding despite not being formally qualified for the perks.
The London Assembly (LA)’s Oversight Committee has given Johnson 14 days to give further details of his relationship with Arcuri.
James Cleverly told BBC’s Today programme that the Oversight Committee should be looking at “the ineptitude and failings of the current mayor of London”, Sadiq Khan.
He suggested that as Johnson is no longer mayor, he would not need to be scrutinised by the LA for his acts as mayor.
This is despite the fact that the prime minister has previously appeared before the committee over his leadership on the ill-fated Garden Bridge.
Cleverly was asked if the prime minister was willing to break the law by not showing up as the LA has the powers to compel him.
But Cleverly insisted that as a former LA member himself, it was “quite common” for ministers to refuse to appear, saying he was “working on the assumption that the body that exists to scrutinise ministers is the House of Commons”.
He went on: “The body that is there to scrutinise the mayor of London is the London Assembly, and there is a clear division of role there.”
Johnson has been accused of a conflict of interest over his relationship with Arcuri.
Her business received £126,00 in public support during Johnson’s time as mayor, while he and his team personally intervened to secure her a place on trade missions.
This is despite the fact that her businesses did not in all cases qualify for the support.
Green Party co-leader and member of the Oversight Committee Siân Berry challenged Cleverly’s suggestion that Johnson could refuse to show up.
The LA’s Oversight Committee confirmed that it could compel a former mayor to appear when it was questioning Johnson over the Garden Bridge issue, she said.
“We had to get advice on whether we could do that to a former mayor, but we could, so we did. And we would again,” she told the Guardian.
She told the paper that she condemned the potention for Johnson to flout the request as “really disturbing”.
“I don’t think anyone can really predict which laws the prime minister is going to obey,” she said. “He has left himself basically in contempt of parliament. But we would expect him to comply with the law.”
She added: “Seeing the prime minister last night suggesting that he won’t behave in a way that is appropriate is really disturbing.
“The prime minister’s one job is to effectively uphold the law and the fact that we have got one who is not doing that on regular basis is very very disturbing. And that people are prepared to justify that is even more disturbing.”