MPs investigating if Boris Johnson misled Parliament over partygate scandal appeal for witnesses

·3 min read
Boris Johnson being investigated over whether he misled Parliament over partygate scandal  (AP)
Boris Johnson being investigated over whether he misled Parliament over partygate scandal (AP)

MPs investigating whether Boris Johnson misled Parliament over the partygate scandal appealed on Wednesday for witnesses to provide them with information including possibly anonymously.

Following its first meeting, the Committee of Privileges issued a call for evidence submissions and accounts from those with knowledge of events related to the inquiry into the Prime Minister’s conduct.

“Specifically, the Committee is seeking witness information and evidence which would enable it to determine whether or not the Rt Hon Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Mr Johnson) misled the House,” said the MPs.

The Committee stressed that this may include:

* Evidence of Mr Johnson’s knowledge of the activities in 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office under Covid regulations, from the occurrence of those events until now.

* Any briefing given to, or inquiries made by, Mr Johnson relating to those events.

It added: “The Committee will take a range of evidence in the course of the inquiry, including written and oral evidence.

“The Committee also confirmed it would be willing to take oral or written evidence from people who wish to remain anonymous, subject to the Chair being able to identify the individual’s identity in conjunction with Committee staff, as well as the relevance and probity of their evidence.”

MPs on the committee unanimously elected ‘Mother of the House’ Harriet Harman as chairwoman.

The Committee also announced its intention to appoint the Rt Hon Sir Ernest Ryder, former Lord Justice of Appeal and Senior President of Tribunals, as an adviser.

It stressed: “The appointment of the distinguished former Appeal Court judge comes following his extensive review of the fairness and natural justice within the House of Commons standards system, which was commissioned by the Standards Committee and published in February.” T

The committee met at 9.30am in The Thatcher Room in Portcullis House.

Earlier, Labour MP Chris Bryant stood down temporarily as chairman of the committee, stressing that it was “important that the House be seen to proceed fairly without any imputation of unfairness” following his public criticism of the Prime Minister over the string of parties, some booze-fuelled, in No10.

Mr Bryant tweeted on Wednesday morning: “I have recused myself but I wish the privileges committee well today. I have every confidence that all my colleagues on the committee will be thorough, precise, and fair in pursuing the evidence and coming to whatever conclusion they feel right.”

The committee has four Conservative members, Sir Bernard Jenkin, Andy Carter, Laura Farris and Alberto Costa, two from Labour, Ms Harman and Yvonne Fovargue, and one from the Scottish National Party, Allan Dorans.

Mr Johnson denies misleading Parliament.

However, his premiership was hit by a fresh blow last week after the resignation of Oliver Dowden as Tory party chairman following the by-election losses in Tiverton and Honiton, to the Liberal Democrats, and Wakefield to Labour.

The furore has died down in recent days but some Tory MPs are still believed to be discussing a fresh attempt to oust him from No10.

But Mr Johnson won a confidence vote at the start of June and a fresh contest cannot be held for a year unless Tory parliamentary party rules are changed by the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs.

Elections are due to be held shortly to appoint a new 1922 executive, with some of Mr Johnson’s critics saying they will stand to be on it.

Some other MPs, who voted against Mr Johnson, say the party should not amend the rules as it would risk future political instability.

However, if Mr Johnson was found to have knowingly misled Parliament, by insisting that the Covid rules were followed in No10, then he could face a new revolt by Tory MPs.

The Prime Minister and his wife Carrie received £50 fines for a surprise birthday bash held for him in Downing Street on June 19, 2020.

In total, 126 fixed penalty notices were dished out by the Met Police for gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall on eight dates, which is believed to have made No10 the most fined building in Britain for breaking Covid laws.