The foreign secretary has defended the government spending more than £2.6 million on creating a White House-style media briefing room in Downing Street after pictures of the refurbishment surfaced this week.
The images published by ITV News on Monday show the room in No 9 Downing Street has been kitted out with cameras and rows of chairs for journalists.
Union flags flank a lectern from where the prime minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, will field reporters’ questions and act as the face of the government.
The images emerged after reports that the multi-million pound renovations were carried out by Megahertz, a company owned by a Moscow-based firm that has carried out technical work for state-controlled broadcaster Russia Today.
Dominic Raab told BBC Breakfast: “It is not something I’m responsible for but I do think that making sure we communicate with the public is very important.
“We saw that in the press conferences that the prime minister and other senior ministers, myself included, had (during the coronavirus pandemic).
“Making sure we communicate directly with the public is something I think they welcome and making sure we can do it in an effective, coherent way is very important.”
Stratton, a former journalist, said there were “absolutely not” any security concerns, adding: “Clearly, in a contract like that we take all the necessary measures to ensure the highest standards of security.”
But shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves said “serious questions” were being raised about who is getting “rushed-through” government contracts.
“And that’s before we even get to why our nurses are getting a pay cut while the government spends millions on a media briefing room,” the Labour MP added.
“Given how much money Boris Johnson has thrown at his latest vanity project, we were expecting something a bit more impressive.
“The fact the government seems to have simply brushed this off with no further transparency or assurances on how they’re spending British taxpayer money is deeply concerning.”
The launch of the televised briefings had been anticipated as early as the autumn, but in January No 10 said they were being delayed as ministers planned to hold regular press conferences during the lockdown.
A government spokesman said spending on the briefing room was in the public interest.