Boris Johnson will face a parliamentary inquiry after MPs voted in the House of Commons on Thursday for an inquiry into whether the UK Prime Minister breached coronavirus restrictions by attending unlawful gatherings, the scandal called partygate. While Johnson was miles away in India on a two-day bilateral visit, MPs shouted yes to Parliament’s Privileges Committee to investigate whether the British Prime Minister knowingly misled Parliament In error.
The vote, tabled by the opposition Labor Party, passed without a formal vote being necessary as the Conservative Party benches were thinly present after the ruling party dropped a planned amendment to delay the motion. Under parliamentary rules, UK government ministers must resign for knowingly misleading MPs and correct the record as soon as possible if they inadvertently tell parliament something wrong. Speaking in Ahmedabad, Johnson said “if the opposition wants to focus on that and talk about it a lot more, that’s fine”, but he “wanted to focus on what matters for the future of the country”, including strengthening trade relations with India.
Defending Johnson in the Commons during the debate, UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis said the UK PM had not misled the Commons but had commented on the party’s revelations “in good faith”. . He added that the Prime Minister “has always been clear that he is happy to face any inquiries Parliament deems appropriate”.
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“He responded to the event for which he received a notice of fixed penalty,” Ellis said. The fixed fine notice refers to a fine, estimated at £50, which was imposed on Johnson by Scotland Yard last week after he was found guilty of breaking lockdown rules on his birthday in June 2020.
His wife Carrie Johnson, who brought a cake into the Downing Street Cabinet Room that day, and UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak who said he was there for a meeting were also fined by police metropolitan. All three immediately paid their fines and apologized following the formal notices. Labor leader Keir Starmer accused Tory MPs of failing to uphold the values of ‘honesty and integrity’ and said ‘Britain deserves better’ than Johnson.
Deputy Labor leader Angela Rayner reiterated her party’s call for the Prime Minister’s resignation, telling MPs ‘the Prime Minister is driving the Conservative Party down the drain’. Urging MPs to support an investigation, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘The public will not tolerate another Tory story that drags our democracy through the mud just to protect one of its own. Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Ian Blackford said Johnson “lied to avoid getting caught, and once he got caught he lied again”.
After more than five hours of debate, MPs were asked if they supported opening an inquiry into Johnson and as no one opposed the proposal, the motion passed without a formal vote. The clash stemmed from Johnson’s initial statement to the Commons which insisted COVID lockdown rules had been followed at No 10 Downing Street following early partygate allegations. His Conservative Party colleagues supported him, with only a few voicing their criticisms within the Conservative Party.
As a result, a parliamentary vote on the issue was expected to be in Johnson’s favor but marks a further breach in his leadership ahead of local council and mayoral elections scheduled for May 5.
(Edited by : Anand Singha)