Boris 'threatens to sue Cabinet Office' over Covid 'stitch-up' after latest lockdown rule breaking claims

23 May 2023, 18:08 | Updated: 24 May 2023, 08:44

Boris Johnson has been referred to police
Boris Johnson has been referred to police. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson "has threatened to sue" the Government after the Cabinet Office referred the former PM to the police over allegations he broke Covid rules by hosting friends and family at Chequers during lockdown.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Mr Johnson's ministerial diary recorded the trips to the grace and favour country mansion used by prime ministers as a rural getaway during the period of lockdown rules.

The Cabinet Office has passed information to the Met and Thames Valley Police about the trips, The Times reports.

The former Conservative leader was said to have been furious about the move, with allies suggesting that it had been "politically motivated".

Sources close to Mr Johnson said he had already been given legal advice that none of the events in question were in breach of Covid rules, MailOnline reported.

Listen and subscribe to Unprecedented: Inside Downing Street on Global Player

A friend of the Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP reportedly he was "seriously considering" taking legal action.

‘It appears the Cabinet Office has written to the privileges committee claiming that these events constitute lockdown breaches. That is not true and it is seriously defamatory,’ the source told the outlet.

The latest claims came to light amid preparations for the public inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic.

The parliamentary committee that is investigating allegations Mr Johnson misled the House of Commons about "partygate" has been informed too.

A friend of Mr Johnson reportedly said he was "seriously considering" taking legal action
A friend of Mr Johnson reportedly said he was "seriously considering" taking legal action. Picture: Alamy

But Mr Johnson's team have insisted the events in question "were all within the rules" and suggested the allegations are an attempt to undermine the former PM.

A spokesperson for Mr Johnson said: "The assertion by the Cabinet Office that there have been further COVID rule breaches is totally untrue.

"Lawyers have examined the events in question and advised that they were lawful.

"No contact was made with Mr Johnson before these incorrect allegations were made both to the police and to the Privileges Committee. This is both bizarre and unacceptable.

"For whatever political purpose, it is plain that a last ditch attempt is being made to lengthen the Privileges Committee investigation as it was coming to a conclusion and to undermine Mr Johnson."

The spokesperson said the former Conservative leader's lawyers have written to the police "to explain in detail why the Cabinet Office is entirely wrong in its assertions".

Boris Johnson's diary revealed Chequers visits, sources said
Boris Johnson's diary revealed Chequers visits, sources said. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Boris Johnson 'definitely' will answer questions on lockdown breaches, Rachel Johnson says

Read more: Boris Johnson's wife Carrie is pregnant with third child and will give birth 'in just a few weeks'

"The events in question were all within the rules either because they were held outdoors or came within another lawful exception" and "include regular meetings with civil servants and advisers", they said.

"It appears some within government have decided to make unfounded suggestions both to the police and to the Privileges Committee," the spokesperson added.

"Many will conclude that this has all the hallmarks of yet another politically motivated stitch up."

Speaking on LBC’s Cross Question on Tuesday evening very shortly after the news broke, Rachel Johnson said: “As far as I’m aware, all the rules were followed whenever I went to Chequers.”

Mr Johnson has been told by lawyers the events were lawful and did not break the rules, and they have given their opinion to the Cabinet Office and Privileges Committee.

He has had no contact from the police.

A source close to Mr Johnson denied his friends and family had visited the mansion in Buckinghamshire.

Sources in the Cabinet Office said it would not have been right for ministers or civil servants to review the evidence before it was sent to the authorities.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "Information came to light during the process of preparing evidence for submission to the Covid inquiry.

Read more: Boris Johnson's wife Carrie is pregnant with third child and will give birth 'in just a few weeks'

The visits mere made to Chequers
The visits mere made to Chequers. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Boris Johnson called Macron 'Putin's lickspittle', former No10 comms chief Guto Harri reveals

Read More: Sir Keir Starmer hits out at Guto Harri’s claim that Boris Johnson described Sue Gray as a 'psycho'

"It was identified as part of the normal disclosure review of potentially relevant documents being undertaken by the legal team for inquiry witnesses."

"In line with obligations in the civil service code, this material has been passed to the relevant authorities and it is now a matter for them."

Thames Valley Police said it had been told about potential breaches of Covid regulations between June 2020 and May 2021 at Chequers.

During that period the restrictions loosened and tightened. From June 2020, people could meet in groups of six outdoors and by July many of the rules were lifted, only for measures to be brought in from September and then a lockdown in November banned meetings outside of a household or support bubble.

The Met said it is current assessing the claims in relation to "potential breaches... at Downing Street".

Mr Johnson gave lawyers - funded by the Cabinet Office - access to the diary that included all his meetings for his defence, The Times was told.

But lawyers are said to have concerns about the details of visitors to Chequers - where Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie stayed repeatedly during the first lockdown - and raised it to senior Cabinet Office staff.

Mr Johnson, who is awaiting the findings from the privileges committee over whether he misled Parliament - something that could decide his political future - was fined by the Met over a birthday gathering in June 2020.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, arrives at Zurich airport in Switzerland

World leaders to meet at Swiss resort on possible Ukraine peace roadmap

Live
David Cameron has warned that Nigel Farage is trying to destroy the Conservative party

General Election LIVE: Cameron warns Farage is 'trying to destroy the Conservatives', as Labour tackles NHS

The coach of one of the boys said he was 'not a monster'

'He's not a monster - he just didn't have the right role models,' claims boxing coach of 12-year-old machete murderer

Wayne Lineker was punched

Wayne Lineker's 'own brand of excess and drunkenness' to blame for attack that saw him knocked out, politician says

Alan Bates, Imelda Staunton and Tracey Emin were given honours in the birthday list

Post Office campaigner Alan Bates knighted in Birthday Honours, as Imelda Staunton and Tracey Emin made dames

Exclusive
x

Domestic abuse cases during Euros ‘could double’ as police seek to understand link between football and violence

Three drones have been seized by Merseyside Police after they were flown over Taylor Swift's concert in Liverpool's Anfield Stadium

Three drones seized after being flown over Taylor Swift's concerts at Liverpool's Anfield Stadium

Alex Jones speaking to the media after arriving at court in Houston, Texas, for a hearing in front of a bankruptcy judge on Friday

Judge rules Alex Jones’ assets to be sold to help pay Sandy Hook debt

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa raises his hands in parliament after being re-elected for a second term

Cyril Ramaphosa re-elected as South African president for second term after deal

Co-founder of Ozy Media, Carlos Watson arrives at Brooklyn Federal Court, for an earlier hearing

Google chief gives evidence at fraud trial of Ozy Media founder

Post Office campaigner Alan Bates given knighthood in King’s Birthday Honours

Post Office campaigner Alan Bates knighted in King’s Birthday Honours but says he isn't a 'hero'

Justice Department

US attorney general will not be prosecuted for contempt of Congress

A 12-year-old child was injured at the Valkea shopping centre in Oulu after a stabbing

'Far-right' knifeman attacks two children at Finnish shopping centre, leaving 12-year-old seriously wounded

The leaders of France left-wing coalition for the upcoming election Green Party Yannick Jadot, Communist Party national secretary Fabien Roussel, Socialist Party Secretary General Olivier Faure Presid

France’s leftist alliance leaders vow to ‘extinguish the flame’ of far right

G7 world leaders and other leaders from guest nations attend a working session on artificial intelligence, on day two of the 50th G7 summit in southern Italy

G7 leaders tackle migration, AI and economic security on final day of summit

Cyril Ramaphosa listens as members of parliament are sworn in ahead of an expected vote to decide if he is re-elected as leader of the country

Ramaphosa set for re-election in South Africa after coalition agreement