Boris Johnson misled Parliament by claiming Covid rules were followed, privileges committee to say

13 June 2023, 07:10

Boris Johnson misled Parliament, the privileges committee is expected to say
Boris Johnson misled Parliament, the privileges committee is expected to say. Picture: Alamy/Cabinet Office

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson misled Parliament when he claimed Covid rules had been followed in Downing Street, the privileges committee of MPs has found.

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The former prime minister had played down Partygate allegations during his time in No10 and claimed advisers told him the rules and guidance had been followed.

He had told the Commons that social distancing was observed.

But the privileges committee, which looks into cases of parliamentary standards, found officials did not tell him that guidance had been followed.

Mr Johnson said he was given "repeated assurances" the rules were followed at all times.

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But in written evidence, Jack Doyle, Mr Johnson's then-director of communications, said he didn't think he advised Mr Johnson "to say they were followed completely, they are difficult things to say".

The committee, of which four of the seven MPs are Conservatives, is expected to present its findings on Wednesday.

Boris Johnson quit on Friday
Boris Johnson quit on Friday. Picture: Alamy

It was expected the report would be damning of Mr Johnson given he quit as MP on Friday, having trashed the committee for forming what he called a "witch hunt" against him.

The MPs are due to recommend he should have been suspended for at least 10 days had he remained in the Commons, which would have triggered a by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat.

Read more: 'I'm so bored of Boris Johnson I could scream': Andrew Marr slams 'selfish narcissist' former PM in explosive poem

There is speculation over whether that seat could flip to Labour.

The committee is also expected to say Mr Johnson was misleading during his public hearing with them, when he said a leaving drinks do he attended followed Covid guidance.

The Times reports that the committee is also due to say that criticism of its work should be considered contempt of Parliament.

Boris Johnson's Partygate claims have been scrutinised
Boris Johnson's Partygate claims have been scrutinised. Picture: Cabinet Office

That comes after Mr Johnson and his supporters repeatedly criticised it. Its members were offered beefed-up security in response to messages in support of the former PM that flooded in.

In a lengthy statement, during which he took aim at Rishi Sunak for abandoning the attempt to sign a free trade deal with the US and other grievances, Mr Johnson tried to pin his demise on a "witch hunt" he said was being orchestrated to "take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result".

Read more: 'Rishi Sunak is talking rubbish:' Boris Johnson hits back as Tory honours meltdown descends into civil war

He accused the privileges committee of "egregious bias", claiming he had been "forced out, anti-democratically".

He said: "Their purpose from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of facts. This is the very definition of a kangaroo court."

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The committee met on Monday to conclude its work. A spokesman for the group said: "The Committee has followed the procedures and the mandate of the House at all times and will continue to do so.

"Mr Johnson has departed from the processes of the House and has impugned the integrity of the House by his statement."

There was more controversy on Friday when Mr Johnson's resignation honours and peerages list was confirmed.

Mr Johnson had attempted to push Mr Sunak into giving his father Stanley Johnson a knighthood but he did not make the final list, The Times said. Mr Johnson's spokesman did not comment while a Downing Street source said his name had not been removed by them.

Allies including Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg were given honours while other key allies and officials were elevated to the House of Lords.