Boris Johnson to submit defense brief ahead of party’s televised questioning by MPs | Political news
Boris Johnson is to submit a dossier of evidence ahead of questioning by MPs into whether he lied to Parliament about the partygate scandal.
The former prime minister will provide information in his defense as he prepares for a lengthy TV broadcast grilling by the Commons Privileges Committee on Wednesdaywhere he faces a fight for his political life.
In an interim report, the panel said the evidence strongly suggested breaches of coronavirus rules in No 10 should have been “obvious” For Mr Johnson.
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They are looking at evidence on at least four occasions when he may have deliberately misled MPs into assuring them lockdown rules were being followed.
Mr Johnson, who was fined by the Metropolitan Police for breaching his own COVID-19 laws, denied misleading the Commons.
The former Tory leader’s allies said he would provide a ‘detailed and compelling’ briefing to the committee before his appearance, showing he ‘did not knowingly mislead the House’.
The Sunday Times has reported that he will point to a series of previously undisclosed WhatsApp messages from senior officials and members of his No 10 team showing he relied on their advice when giving his statements to Parliament.
He will also post messages showing that other senior Downing Street officials believed the gatherings were covered by the “workplace exemption” in the lockdown rules.
A spokesperson for the committee said: “The committee has invited Mr Johnson to provide written evidence to the inquest, if he wishes, prior to the oral evidence session.
“Any such response will be published.
“The committee said that Mr Johnson can publish his own written evidence, if he wishes, but any such evidence must also be formally submitted to the committee who will publish it themselves as soon as possible after receiving it, after an initial scan (to ensure that no deletion of witness names is necessary, etc.).
“The committee would post to the website in the usual way.”
The panel’s inquiry is chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman, although the cross-party group has a Conservative majority.
The seven-member committee will decide whether Mr Johnson has been in contempt of Parliament and recommend a sanction, although the final say rests with the full House of Commons.
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Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden told Sky News Sophy Ridge on Sunday’s show: ‘I’m sure Boris Johnson will defend himself strongly and then it will be up to the committee to determine the outcome.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would not seek to influence MPs on the committee and indicated he would give a free vote to the Conservative ranks on any sanctions that might be proposed.
Asked if he feared a suspension of more than 10 days could trigger a by-election in Mr Johnson’s seat in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Mr Sunak added: “It’s the business of the Parliament, House. It’s not fair for the government to be involved.”
In recent days, House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt has warned against bullying members of the privileges committee.
She said they must be ‘allowed to continue their work without fear or favour’ and stressed that they were ‘doing a service to this House’.
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Mr Johnson and his supporters have raised concerns about the party’s investigator Sue Gray’s pending the transfer of the civil service to the office of Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer.
However, the committee denied that its investigation was based on the Gray report.
Instead, the inquest gathered evidence from witnesses’ WhatsApp messages, emails and photos from a Downing Street photographer.