Boris Johnson gets £510,000 advance as taxpayers face rising legal bill for ex-PM

Boris Johnson's book will be published this year. Credit: PA

Boris Johnson has pocketed over £500,000 ahead of his book launch - while British taxpayers are footing a £222,000 bill to cover his legal fees for defending himself in the partygate inquiry.

The former prime minister’s latest entry in the Register of Members’ Interests says that he “received £510,000 as an advance on an upcoming book yet to be published” – even though he has so far done just 10 hours work on it.

The biographical book promises to be prime ministerial memoir “like no other”, according to an announcement by its publishers HarperCollins earlier in January.

Earlier, MPs were told the estimated legal bill – to be paid by the taxpayer – for lawyers representing him in the Commons inquiry into whether he lied over lockdown parties in No 10 has risen to £222,000.

The Privileges Committee is investigating whether he committed contempt of Parliament by telling the Commons on several occasions that there were no lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

It was one of the biggest news stories of our time - and it's still not over. So what did Boris Johnson know about Downing Street’s notorious parties? With fresh revelations from our Number 10 sources, in their own words, listen to the inside story...

Solicitors firm Peters and Peters was awarded a contract worth £129,700 in August 2022 to provide Mr Johnson with advice during the investigation into his conduct by the Privileges Committee.

However, Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm said cost had gone up due to the length of the inquiry, when giving evidence to the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

He said: “We hope and expect that will be a maximum figure but obviously we don’t want to anticipate and certainly could not regulate the conduct of the committee, which is entirely up to them."

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said taxpayers should not have to “write a blank cheque” to subsidise Mr Johnson’s defence fund.

”Hundreds of thousands has already been wasted on legal fees for this disgraced former PM but Rishi Sunak is once again too weak to put a stop to it,” she said.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain called for taxpayer support for Mr Johnson’s legal fees to end.

She said: “While the British people battle with a cost-of-living crisis, this Conservative government seems more interested in helping Boris Johnson with his cost-of-lying crisis.

“This is a sleazy new low for this government, dragging politics into the gutter.

“People will be outraged that hundreds of thousands of pounds of their money will be used to defend a lying lawbreaker who disgraced the office of prime minister.

“(Prime Minister) Rishi Sunak needs to step in immediately, stop this fund and apologise for his Government’s chaotic track record of defending the indefensible.”

Richard Sharp resigned as BBC chairman after failing to declare his connection to a loan made to Boris Johnson Credit: DCMS/PA

It comes as Mr Johnson’s personal finances were put under renewed scrutiny, following the disclosure that BBC chairman Richard Sharp helped him secure a reported loan facility of up to £800,000 shortly before Mr Sharp was appointed to the post.

The Public Appointments Commissioner William Shawcross is to conduct an inquiry into whether the rules were properly followed.

Mr Sharp has also been recalled to appear before the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee over evidence he gave at a pre-appointment hearing.

Mr Sharp has said there was no impropriety and that the selection process was done “by the book”.

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