I raised the issue of Hacker House in the House of Commons. Hacker House, a start-up company led by Jennifer Arcuri who was allegedly in a relationship with Mr Johnson at the time, had hardly any income but was awarded a total of £126,000 in grant funding by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. In addition, Ms Arcuri enjoyed privileged access to three overseas trade missions led by Mr Johnson during his time as London Mayor.
The grants were awarded as part of the cyber skills immediate impact fund, a grant that was open to initiatives based in and that operate from Britain. Furthermore, these grants should not exceed 50% of the company’s revenue.
However, we now know that Hacker House is not based in the UK. Its owner, Jennifer Arcuri, moved back to the USA in June 2018. The grants were not open for application until November. The registered address of the company is in fact a house in Cheshire that she used to rent, and the current occupant apparently sends any post addressed to Ms Arcuri back to the sender.
Serious questions need to be answered about the potential conflicts of interests of the now Prime Minister.
What steps did the Department take to ensure that Hacker House was indeed based in and operating in the UK? Why did officials waive the rule that the grants could not exceed 50% of the company’s collective income? How many of the other companies that we now find have had these grants have had this kind of preferential treatment? Did the Prime Minister, then a Back Bencher, make any representations, official or otherwise, to the Department recommending Hacker House for the funding? Whilst the Department says that it will investigate the award of the grant, the Minister who was responding to questions on this serious issue, staggeringly dismissed these concerns as “tittle-tattle”!