Boris Johnson’s top advisor Lord Lister quits after only two months as Gulf envoy as Downing Street lobbying row rages on
- Lord Udny-Lister, 71, is to step back from his role as special envoy for the Gulf
- It comes after stories about the peer’s previous work within the private sector
- Source told the Telegraph there was ‘no links between them and his departure’
A top aide to Boris Johnson has tonight quit after only two months in his role, amid the ongoing row over lobbying.
Lord Udny-Lister – a trusted political advisor to the Prime Minister and who worked alongside him during his time as Mayor of London – is to step back from his role as special envoy for the Gulf.
It comes after a series of stories about the 71-year-old peer’s previous work within the private sector.
These includes reports in the Mail on Sunday last week that Lord Udny-Lister owned shares in a company that has won nearly £1million in Government and NHS contracts.
A source told the Telegraph that there were ‘no links between the disclosures and Lord Lister’s departure’.
The source also told the paper that the timing of his departure was linked to Mr Johnson’s trip to India – which was cancelled due this week due to Covid.
Meanwhile, Downing Street spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The Prime Minister is hugely grateful for Lord Lister’s dedicated service over many years.
Lord Udny-Lister, a top aide to Boris Johnson, has tonight quit after only two months in his role, amid the ongoing row over lobbying
Lord Udny-Lister – a trusted political advisor to the Prime Minister and who worked alongside him during his time as Mayor of London – is to step back from his role as special envoy for the Gulf
Boris Johnson is shamed into paying £58,000 bill for the Downing Street refurbishment himself after the Tory Party settled it then tried to disguise the truth
Boris Johnson has been shamed into paying for the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat after the Daily Mail exposed how the Tory Party settled the bill – and then tried to disguise the truth.
The Mail first revealed in February that the Prime Minister had asked Tory donors to contribute to the cost of redecorating, amid fears that spending ordered by his fiancee Carrie Symonds was ‘out of control’.
His bid to sweep the scandal under the plush carpet collapsed on Wednesday, when the Mail published damning emails sent to party chairman Ben Elliot, a nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall.
In one, sent in October, Tory donor Lord Brownlow said he had given £58,000 to cover payments ‘the party has already made’. Lord Brownlow added that the donation should be attributed to the ‘soon to be formed Downing Street Trust’.
A second email showed that the multimillionaire, an ex-policeman turned entrepreneur, had been asked to run the trust by Mr Johnson personally last June.
The proposed trust was purportedly intended to preserve the entire Downing Street estate, but it did not exist at the time of the donation – and still doesn’t.
Critics claim the idea was a ruse to recoup money spent on the Number 11 flat. Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds live there as it is larger than the space above No 10.
Miss Symonds was reportedly eager to get rid of the ‘John Lewis furniture nightmare’ inherited from Theresa May.
This led her to commission the modish – and expensive – eco-friendly interior designer Lulu Lytle, whose work includes rattan furniture, gold wallpaper and wrought-iron finishings.
Admirers of her decor include Prince Charles, who visited her Leicester workshop last year.
Multiple sources at senior levels of the Government and Conservative Party have expressed outraged that Mr Johnson, 56, and Miss Symonds, 33, not only refused to pay for their revamp, but also wanted Tory donors to bail them out.
The Government appeared to try to bury Mr Johnson’s climbdown yesterday by having it announced in the House of Lords by Cabinet Office minister Lord True.
He said the cost of work on ‘painting, sanding and floorboards’ in the flat would be met by the taxpayer, but ‘any costs of wider refurbishment in this year have been met by the Prime Minister personally’.
Those sixteen words are likely to have cost Mr Johnson around £58,000.
The Government did not say how much he paid, or when. Lord True said the Government had been ‘considering the merits’ of setting up a trust for future refurbishments, but the ‘legally complex’ plans remain ‘ongoing’.
Despite his £161,000-a-year salary, Mr Johnson’s friends claim he has struggled to make ends meet since entering Downing Street. Confirmed to have at least six children, he has been through an expensive second divorce.
‘He has been an outstanding servant to the country, to the Government and to the Prime Minister when he was mayor of London.’
A key Johnson ally, Lord Udny-Lister was only revealed as the Government’s special envoy for the Gulf in February.
It was reported at the time that the role will focus on strengthening links with the region, as well as driving investment to the UK.
Speaking at the time of his appointment, Mr Johnson said: ‘The Gulf is a pivotal region both economically and geopolitically. I’m very pleased to be sending Lord Udny-Lister to work with our partners there and to unlock its potential.
‘His appointment marks my ambition to achieve a wholescale modernisation of our Gulf relationships, creating jobs and driving prosperity at home while delivering on our priorities and values overseas.’
Lord Udny-Lister had been acting chief of staff in No 10 until former Treasury official Dan Rosenfield relieved him of the role.
Last month reports emerged that the peer held talks over taking a six-figure second job with a lobbying firm with interests in the Gulf.
Lord Udny-Lister held discussions with Finsbury Glover Hering over combining his governmental role with a private one.
He rejected the offer from Finsbury earlier this month after being approached by the Times, the newspaper reported at the time.
The paper reported the firm as saying Lord Udny-Lister’s role would not have involved Middle Eastern clients.
The report came after the peer was caught up in a conflict of interest row over claims he helped broker a deal for China’s new embassy on behalf of the Government while being paid by two of the companies involved.
The Sunday Times reported that Lord Udny-Lister helped the Foreign Office lead talks with China over its £255million deal to buy Royal Mint Court – near to the Tower of London.
But while working on the talks, which took place between 2017 and 2018, the-then Sir Edward Lister also worked for two of the companies involved in the deal, according to the paper.
He worked as a paid consultant for American commercial real estate giant CBRE.
The company was hired by China to identify and buy a site for its new embassy.
He was also a paid adviser to London property firm Delancey, who owned the Royal Mint Court, while the talks were in place, according to the Sunday Times.
Both companies told Sunday Times that Lord Udny-Lister took no direct part in the negotiations.
A spokesperson for CBRE told MailOnline earlier this year: ‘Sir Edward Lister did not have any involvement with CBRE on the Royal Mint Court transaction.
‘He was employed as consultant with CBRE between October 2016 and December 2017.’
A Government spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Sir Eddie Lister undertook this work as a Non-Executive Director of the FCO at the request of the government. There was no conflict of interest.’
Delancey bought the site from the Crown Estate – company behind the Queen’s public estate – for £51million in 2010.
The historic building, which is opposite the Tower of London, was home to the former Royal Mint.
The building was bought by the Chinese government for £250 million in 2018.
It is now planned to be the new home of the Chinese Embassy and is set to be one of the biggest in the world.
Last week the Mail on Sunday revealed how the Tory peer had more than £50,000 worth of shares in Johnson Controls, a US-based engineering firm whose UK branch has secured six public contracts since Lister joined the No 10 team as Chief Strategic Adviser.
Lord Udny-Lister helped the Foreign Office lead talks with China over its £255million deal to buy Royal Mint Court – near to the Tower of London. Here he is pictured with Chinese ambassador Liu Xiamoing
The historic Royal Mint court building, which is opposite the Tower of London, was home to the former Royal Mint and will be transformed into the new Chinese Embassy
Four years ago, Johnson Controls merged with Tyco, where Lister worked for more than a decade as ‘director of government relations’ before Mr Johnson brought him to City Hall and then Downing Street.
Last week the Mail on Sunday revealed how Lord Udny-Lister had more than £50,000 worth of shares in Johnson Controls, a US-based engineering firm whose UK branch has secured six public contracts since Lister joined the No 10 team as Chief Strategic Adviser
A total of £998,000 worth of contracts have gone to the company in the almost two years since Lister became the PM’s adviser – the latest was awarded this month.
They include work for a Birmingham Children’s NHS hospital, the NHS-owned North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative, HM Land Registry and South Tees Site Company Limited.
The biggest contract – £521,000 for fire alarm systems – was awarded in January 2020 to Johnson Controls through an arrangement with the Cabinet Office.
Last week a Government spokesman insisted Lister had ‘no involvement’ in awarding the contracts.
Last year, Lord Udny-Lister was also accused of a possible conflict of interest over a payment of nearly £500,000 from a luxury property developer while working for a government affordable housing body.
He received the six-figure payment from Malaysian property developer EcoWorld between 2016 and 2019.
But at the time he was also Chairman of Homes England – a government body that funds affordable housing projects.
The consultancy fees paid to Sir Edward totalled £487,000.
This far exceeded his annual salary of £68,000 which he received while working for Homes England.
MailOnline has contacted Lord Udny-Lister for comment about his departure.
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