Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denied lying to parliament about the ‘partygate’ scandal as he was questioned by MPs at a hearing that could decide his political fate.
Giving evidence to the House Privileges Committee on Wednesday, Johnson said:
A Conservative-majority committee led by Labor MP Harriet Harman, the former prime minister told MPs that COVID-19 rules and guidance had not been broken at the rally in Downing Street. It is investigating whether he deliberately misled Congress when he repeated his statements. lockdown.
“These statements are made in good faith based on what I honestly knew and believed at the time,” Johnson said.
He also attempted to discredit the process used to determine whether Congress was disrespectful, calling it “clearly unfair.”
“I have not found anything to indicate that I had been warned beforehand that the Number 10 event was illegal. We found nothing to indicate that it raised any concerns,” he said.
“If there had been this much anxiety about the rule-breaking incident at Number 10, it would have definitely been escalated to me.”
If found to have deceived Congress, Johnson could face suspension from Congress, which would expose him to a possible recall and by-election.
Mr Johnson admitted to misleading lawmakers in a document filed with the commission on Monday, saying no party at 10 Downing Street violated lockdown rules.
However, he denied it “in good faith” based on the information he had at the time, claiming he “did not intentionally or recklessly mislead the House.”
During the legal debate, Johnson admitted that the denials were found to be untrue, but said he would correct the record “at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Mr Johnson added: I honestly knew and believed at the time.
“I did not intentionally or recklessly mislead the House of Representatives on December 1, 2021, December 8, 2021, or any other date. I never dreamed I would,” he added.
But a senior official working for Downing Street at the time questioned Johnson’s repeated claims that officials had reassured him that COVID-19 guidance had not been breached during the lockdown rally.
The UK’s top civil servant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, told the inquiry that he did not know the official who assured Johnson that the guidance had not been breached during the lockdown rally.
Case said “no” to a survey question asking whether she had assured Johnson that COVID-19 rules were “always being followed.”
He also said he did not advise that the party was not held in Downing Street and was unaware that others were telling the then-Prime Minister that he was following all guidelines.
Jack Doyle, Johnson’s head of communications when the Partygate story broke, said he didn’t tell Johnson that he had followed all the guidance.
Doyle said he “believed the rules weren’t broken,” but when asked if he said Johnson’s COVID-19 guidance would always be followed, he said “no.”
Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s personal secretary, said he warned the then prime minister not to claim that all the rules had been followed before Johnson repudiated them in parliament.
Reynolds wrote to the committee that he recalled asking Johnson about a proposed line that “implied that all rules and guidance had been followed” during the prime minister’s questioning in the House of Commons.
“He didn’t welcome the interruption, but he told me it gave him reassurance that the communication event was within the rules,” the former adviser said.
“I accepted this, but questioned whether it was realistic, given the nature of No. 10’s work environment, to claim that all guidance was followed at all times.” I agree to remove the
But Johnson told lawmakers on Dec. 8, 2021, “the guidance was always followed, the rules were always followed.”
A Metropolitan Police investigation into COVID-19 lockdown violations ended with a total of 126 fines for 83 people, including Johnson, his wife Carrie and then-Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
A report by senior civil servant Sue Gray, published May 25, 2022, denounced the wider culture that was allowed to develop under Johnson’s leadership, stating: Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen. “
The parliamentary committee’s first report, released earlier this month, said: The evidence strongly suggests that the violation of guidance was evident at the time Johnson attended the meeting.
If Johnson fails to convince the committee that he did not deliberately mislead the House, he could be found guilty of contempt of Congress.
Suspensions of more than 10 days could lead to high-profile by-elections in the constituencies of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
The entire House of Commons voted on every recommendation, and Prime Minister Sunak agreed to give Conservative MPs a free vote on their consciences regarding Johnson’s fate.
Chris Summers and PA Media contributed to this report.