Boris Johnson allies Dorries and Rees-Mogg accused of 'disturbing' campaign to 'undermine' Partygate probe

29 June 2023, 09:22 | Updated: 29 June 2023, 14:17

Nadine Dorries, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel have all been heavily criticised for 'improper pressure' over Partygate
Nadine Dorries, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel have all been heavily criticised for 'improper pressure' over Partygate. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Nadine Dorries, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel have all been heavily criticised for 'undermining procedures of the House of Commons" by criticising its inquiry into Boris Johnson.

The Privileges Committee highlighted comments by senior MPs including Nadine Dorries, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel along with Lord Goldsmith - a serving minister in an “unprecedented and co-ordinated” campaign to undermine the privileges committee.

Members of the committee faced attacks from those close to Boris Johnson in a bid to "prevent them" from doing their duty”, the report that found Johnson misled parliament said.

"Those Members did not choose to engage through any proper process such as the submission of letters or evidence to our inquiry, but by attacking the members of the committee, in order to influence their judgment," the new report said.

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Their aim was to "influence the outcome of the inquiry" and "impede the work of the committee by inducing members to resign from it," the report adds.

The group was trying to "discredit the committee's conclusions if those conclusions were not what they wanted" and "discredit the committee as a whole", it said.

"The committee is particularly concerned about attacks mounted by experienced colleagues, including a serving minister of the Crown, a former leader of the House and a former secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport."

The Privileges Committee, which noted that pressure was "particularly" applied to Conservative members, said the Commons should "maintain its protection of inquiries into individual conduct referred to the Committee of Privileges in the same way that it does those being considered by the House's own Committee on Standards and Independent Expert Panel".

The committee suggested that MPs agree a resolution noting and approving the special report, noting that the Commons would consider "that where the House has agreed to refer a matter relating to individual conduct to the Committee of Privileges, Members of this House should not impugn the integrity of that committee or its members, or attempt to lobby or intimidate those members, or to encourage others to do so, since such behaviour undermines the proceedings of the House and is itself capable of being a contempt".

In a reference to Ms Dorries and Sir Jacob's broadcasting roles, the committee said "two of the members mounting the most vociferous attacks on the committee did so from the platform of their own hosted TV shows".

The report said "pressure was applied particularly to Conservative members of the committee".

It added: "This had the clear intention to drive those members off the committee and so to frustrate the intention of the House that the inquiry should be carried out, or to prevent the inquiry coming to a conclusion which the critics did not want."

There were also "sustained attempts to undermine and challenge the impartiality" of the committee's Labour chairwoman, Harriet Harman.

"This unprecedented and co-ordinated pressure did not affect the conduct or outcome of our inquiry. However, it had significant personal impact on individual members and raised significant security concerns."

The committee said it will be for the House of Commons to consider "what further action, if any, to take" in respect of the MPs named in the report.

It suggested MPs should be asked to agree that seeking to "impugn the integrity of the committee" or attempt to "lobby or intimidate" its members "is itself capable of being a contempt" of Parliament.