Boris Johnson’s government has awarded ₤100,000 of taxpayers’ money to a business that contributed to his management project in order to assist it “get ready for Brexit”– regardless of the company having currently declared itself “Brexit prepared”.
Bristol port will get the six-figure payment to “assist their preparations for Brexit on 31 October”, the Department for Transportation told BuzzFeed News. It is among 16 ports throughout the UK that has actually received a share of a ₤10 million funding pot, and the just one in the west of England.
The decision to hand Bristol port a large amount of taxpayer cash will raise conflict-of-interest questions, because just 4 months ago the Bristol Port Company made a ₤25,000 contribution directly to Johnson ahead of the Conservative party leadership contest.
Johnson then stoked debate when he endorsed a report requiring a Singapore-style tax-free port at Bristol throughout his project.
The payment will also raise eyebrows because, in spite of Transportation secretary Grant Shapps stating the money has to do with “ensuring they are ready for Brexit”, the Bristol Port Business has formerly insisted it is already “ready” for the UK to come out of the EU.
In a handout published by the Bristol Port Business in January, the port declared itself “Brexit ready”.
The pamphlet described how the port “does not predict experiencing Any One Of the delays that are currently being gone over”, stating that it “has the processes, individuals and resilience to cope, whatever the eventual result of Brexit”.
Revealing the funding, the Department for Transportation stated the cash might be invested on container storage. But the Bristol Port Company pamphlet from January said it currently had “offered land at Avonmouth and Royal Portbury Dock for storage”, offering it a “huge capability” to get cargo for 90 days.
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The Bristol Port Company was formed in 1991 when Terence Mordaunt and David Ord purchased the Port of Bristol from Bristol City Board. Mordaunt and Ord are both veteran Conservative donors– the firm also donated ₤25,000 to Jeremy Hunt’s management campaign.
In July, BuzzFeed News reported how First Business Shipping, which trades as the Bristol Port Company, had actually made the donations simply weeks before Johnson backed the idea of a tax-free port at Bristol.
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, a leading fan of individuals’s Vote project for a second Brexit referendum, informed BuzzFeed News: “Johnson has serious questions to answer. Why is he handing over taxpayers’ money to individuals who have donated him money, when the port itself says it is currently ‘Brexit ready’?
” With ethical and character concerns currently swirling around this prime minister, this will only contribute to the perception that Johnson seems delighted to funnel public cash to his rich Brexit-backing good friends when it fits him.”
A DfT spokesperson said: “The competition awarded ₤10 m to 16 ports across England, with each quote assessed versus a robust criteria to support preparations for Brexit on 31 October. It is total nonsense to suggest otherwise.”
Downing Street has actually been approached for remark.
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