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‘ExcludedUK couldn’t text the PM’: Johnson under fire over Dyson messages

The BBC revealed the prime minister had exchanged texts with Dyson and promised to ‘fix’ tax rules

Boris Johnson has come under fire from opposition leaders for saying he would “fix” tax rules for billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson at the same time as failing to provide three million self-employed people with support. 

The BBC revealed the prime minister had exchanged texts with Dyson – whose firm is based in Singapore – and told him that neither he nor his employees would pay extra when helping to make ventilators for the UK during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

At Prime Minister’s Questions, both Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and SNP spokesperson Ian Blackford attacked “tory sleaze” while making reference to ExcludedUK, the campaign group set up to support mostly self-employed people unable to access pandemic support packages. 

Starmer said: “Mr Speaker, this shows once again that favours, privileged access, tax breaks for mates – they are the main currency of this Conservative government.

“If that’s not the case, can the prime minister tell me: if one of the three million self-employed people, who have been excluded from government support for over a year and now face bankruptcy – if they text the prime minister to ask for a tax break so they can survive, will he changed the rules for them too?” 

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Blackford added: “Last March, the prime minister and the chancellor had all the time in the world to fix contracts for a cosy club of friends and Tory donors. 

“But he didn’t have any time to support the millions of self-employed. Those three million didn’t have a David Cameron or a James Dyson to text the prime minister for them. They were on their own and they were left behind by this prime minister.” 

An ExcludedUK spokesperson said: “ExcludedUK are extremely disappointed that, despite numerous requests for parity for 3 million taxpayers, the response is that it is ‘too complicated’ but a couple of texts to the Prime Minister get Dyson instant results.

“Maybe similar tax breaks could be afforded to our members who have no way of paying the tax bills so swiftly sent out by HMRC following over a year of no meaningful support.”

Johnson said he made “no apology for moving heaven and earth” to get ventilators during the pandemic and had supported the self-employed with a “vast package” of measures.

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The revelations come amid a growing row over lobbying in government. 

Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock was accused of breaching the ministerial code after reports revealed he and his sister owned shares in a company awarded NHS contracts.

Questions were also raised after former prime minister David Cameron contacted current government figures and asked for access to a government loan scheme on behalf of firm Greensill Capital. 

Blackford referred to allegations that Conservative ministers had awarded contracts to their friends, saying “this Tory texts for contracts scandal is growing more and more serious with every revelation”. 

A government spokesperson told said it was right to secure equipment for the NHS in “extraordinary times”. 

Dyson said it was “absurd to suggest that his firm was doing anything other than seeking to comply with Treasury rules”. 

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