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Boris Johnson Says He Makes "Absolutely No Apology" For Promising James Dyson He Would "Fix" Tax Issue

3 min read

Boris Johnson has refused to apologise for promising Sir James Dyson his employees would not pay extra tax if they made ventilators in the UK during the first wave of the pandemic.

The Prime Minister has defended a text message conversation with the billionaire businessman and Brexit supporter, Sir James Dyson, revealed by the BBC, in which he promised to "fix" a tax issue for Dyson workers who came to the UK to produce ventilators.

Dyson had called for support from the Treasury to change the rules, but approached Johnson on a personal phone number after he failed to get a response from chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Johnson responded to Dyson: "I will fix it tomo! We need you. It looks fantastic."

When Dyson asked for further assurances from the PM over the tax situation, Johnson replied: "James, I am first lord of the Treasury and you can take it that we are backing you to do what you need."

Labour leader Keir Starmer laid into Johnson over the arrangement at Prime Minister's Questions today, asking if it was "one rule for those who have the Prime Minister's phone number and one rule for everyone else?".

But Johnson stood by his exhange with Dyson, saying he made "absolutely no apology at all for shifting heaven and earth", saying it was necessary to ensure an adequate supply of ventilators at that point in the coronavirus pandemic."To secure ventilators for the people of this country and to save lives and to roll out a ventilator procurement that the Labour controlled Public Accounts Committee themselves said was a benchmark for procurement," Johnson continued. 

He defended the government's ventilator procurement scheme, saying it had allowed the UK to increase its stock of the medical devices from 9,000 to 22,000 during the height of the pandemic.

But the Labour leader said the texts showed a culture of "favours, privileged access, tax breaks for mates" and accused the government of "sleaze, sleaze, sleaze".

Johnson promised there was "nothing to hide" about the arrangement, vowing to share all the details with MPs immediately.

Dyson has told the BBC he is "hugely proud" of his firm's work during the pandemic.

"Our ventilator cost Dyson £20m, freely given to the national cause, and it is absurd to suggest that the urgent correspondence was anything other than seeking compliance with rules, as 450 Dyson people – in UK and Singapore – worked around the clock, seven days a week to build potentially life-saving equipment at a time of dire need.

He added: “Mercifully, they were not required, as medical understanding of the virus evolved. Neither Weybourne [Dyson’s holding company] nor Dyson received any benefit from the project; indeed commercial projects were delayed, and Dyson voluntarily covered the £20m of development costs.”

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