PM to face Privileges Committee probe over Partygate

Published by Scott Challinor on April 21st 2022, 5:05pm

Following a five-hour debate in Parliament on Thursday, the Commons Privileges Committee has been asked to launch a probe into whether prime minister Boris Johnson deliberately misled his fellow MPs over Partygate.

MPs approved the committee launching its own investigation into the matter once the Metropolitan Police concludes its operation looking into the gatherings and issuing fines to those adjudged to have broken lockdown rules.

Ministers had attempted to delay the vote on referring Johnson to the committee, but U-turned after facing opposition from the Conservative backbenches.

Nobody opposed the proposal after the lengthy debate, so it was passed without MPs having to vote.

The Privileges Committee that the PM will face is comprised of seven MPs - Yvonne Fovargue and Chris Bryant of Labour, Allan Dorans of the SNP, and Tories Andy Carter, Alberto Costa, Laura Farris and Sir Bernard Jenkin.

If the committee deems that the prime minister misled Parliament intentionally, they can recommend that sanctions be imposed on him including a suspension or expulsion from Parliament. MPs would then vote on whether to approve the committee’s report and implement the punitive measures that have been recommended.

Government guidelines also stipulate ministers who intentionally mislead Parliament are expected to resign.

A defiant Boris Johnson, however, has insisted that he has “absolutely nothing, frankly, to hide”.

Speaking during his official visit to India - upon which he is seeking to strengthen defence, energy and trade ties - Johnson said: “If the opposition want to focus on this [Partygate] and talk about it a lot more, that's fine.”

The Met has issued 50 fixed penalty notices for Covid rule-breaking linked to the gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall. Last week, Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak were both handed fines for breaking rules by attending a small gathering in the Downing Street Cabinet Room to celebrate the PM’s birthday in June 2020.

However, Johnson had previously informed the Commons that Covid rules were always observed within Downing Street, sparking accusations that he has misled MPs about the gatherings.

After Conservative MPs forced the government into U-turning on the vote, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer took aim at the prime minister, saying that he has “lost the trust of the public” over the lockdown parties and “lost the confidence of his MPs” who “can no longer defend the indefensible”. 

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

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Scott Challinor
Business Editor
April 21st 2022, 5:05pm

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