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Minister Says A Lawmaker Can Be A Lawbreaker But Insists PM Didn't Lie To Parliament Over Partygate

3 min read

Brandon Lewis has claimed Boris Johnson said "what he believed to be the truth" over Downing Street parties after the Prime Minister received a fine from police over a gathering held during lockdown.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said Johnson did not make "inaccurate" claims to Parliament when he told MPs in the Commons that he believed all lockdown rules had been followed in Downing Street.

The Prime Minister will face questions in parliament on Tuesday as MPs meet in Westminster for the first time since Johnson was issued a fixed-penalty notice by the Metropolitan Police for attending a lockdown-breaching gathering for his birthday.

Johnson apologised last week and said he had paid the fine, but insisted he did not believe he had broken the rules at the time for meeting with colleagues for 10 minutes on his birthday in June 2020.

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Lewis said it was possible for a "lawmaker to be a lawbreaker" because other ministers – including Tony Blair – had received fixed-penalty notices for driving offences during their time in office.

He believed said the comparison was "absolutely" fair "in the sense that ministers in the past have sadly been subject to getting fixed penalty notices on a range of issues". 

He added: "They can continue to be ministers. They do continue to be ministers. We've seen that in both governments, the previous Labour government, as well as the Conservative government.

"The focus has to be on accepting when you've done something wrong and acknowledging when you've done that, which the Prime Minister has and been focused on moving forward to do things in the right way." 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Prime Minister's wife Carrie Johnson were also issued fines as a result of their attendance at the same event. Both have paid their fines and apologised for the breach.

Johnson is facing accusations that he misled Parliament following news of the fine, having claimed on the record that all Covid rules were followed by staff in Whitehall.

But Lewis said that while Johnson had accepted he had broken the rules "in the sense he's paid the fine", that didn't mean his claims to MPs were "inaccurate at the time".

The cabinet minister added Johnson had said what he "believed to be true at the time" but accepted the Prime Minister had been right to pay the fine and apologise.

"He outlined to parliament that his view is that he hadn't broken any rules. That was the right thing to do. That was his belief at the time," Lewis said. 

"He is also accepting the police have come to a different view on this particular event. They've issued a fine. He accepts he's acknowledged that, he's paid the fine and apologised."

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