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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Boris Johnson Would Have Received 90 Day Ban For Misleading Parliament On Partygate

Boris Johnson has been found to have misled Parliament (Alamy)

5 min read

The Privileges Committee would have recommended banning Boris Johnson from attending parliament for 90 days as a sanction for misleading parliament over what he knew about Downing Street parties held during lockdown, had he not already resigned as an MP. 

The committee's much-anticipated report, published today, has stated that given Johnson is no longer an MP, it is recommended that he should not be granted a former member’s pass.

Since last year, the Privileges Committee has been conducting an investigation into whether Johnson misled parliament about breaches of lockdown rules in Downing Street when he was prime minister. 

The report has concluded that Johnson did mislead the House multiple times, and in doing so committed a serious contempt of parliament.

Johnson received the Committee’s final report on Friday last week, and promptly resigned as MP on ahead of its release to the public, negating the recommended ban. MPs will vote on whether to endorse the report on Monday, and No 10 has indicated they will be given a free vote rather than be whipped to support or reject its conclusions. 

“We conclude that Mr Johnson’s persistence in putting forward this unsustainable interpretation of the Guidance is both disingenuous and a retrospective contrivance to mislead the House and this Committee,” the report said. 

“He was content to convey the impression that the events (plural) against which allegations had been made were in fact “non-events”, and, to paraphrase, that it was nonsense to suggest that the rulemakers at the heart of government were also rule-breakers.”

On multiple occasions, the report sets out that some of Johnson’s statements were untrue and had “no reasonable basis in the Rules or in the facts”.

The committee had received oral evidence from Johnson earlier this year, as well as evidence from several witnesses, to ascertain whether Johnson had lied about being aware of six gatherings that had broken Covid-19 lockdown rules. 

"A reasonable person looking at the events and the Rules would not have the belief that Mr Johnson has professed," the report continued. 

The report stated that the contempt was "all the more serious" as it was committed by the Prime Minister himself.

"There is no precedent for a Prime Minister having been found to have deliberately misled the House," it said.

"He misled the House on an issue of the greatest importance to the House and to the public, and did so repeatedly."

In response, Johnson said in a statement the committee was a “kangaroo court” and that its publication was a “dreadful day for democracy”.

“This is rubbish. It is a lie,” he said.

“In order to reach this deranged conclusion, the Committee is obliged to say a series of things that are patently absurd, or contradicted by the facts.”

The former MP accused the committee's chair, Harriet Harman, of having a "political agenda" to find him guilty.

Some Conservative MPs, including staunch Johnson ally Brendan Clarke-Smith, have already spoken out in support of the former prime minister and to criticise the report. 

Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt addressed MPs in the House to express the government's and her own support for the report's findings. 

Mordaunt confirmed the MPs' vote on Monday over the sanction recommendations will be an amenable and free vote, meaning MPs will not be whipped to vote a certain way.

"We have to look at the evidence, we have to look at the report," she insisted, advising her colleagues that they should allow the committee and Parliament to carry out their work. 

"But we are talking about people who are friends and colleagues. It will be a painful process and a sad process for all of us, the task that we face on Monday.

"But all of us must do what we think is right and others must leave us alone to do so."

The Liberal Democrats have demanded that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak should strip Boris Johnson of his ex-PM allowance as an additional sanction, as former prime ministers are entitled to claim up to £115,000 a year.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said: “This damning report should be the final nail in the coffin for Boris Johnson’s political career.

"It is completely unprecedented for a former Prime Minister to be found to have been a law-breaker and serial liar, who treated the public and Parliament with total disdain.

“Rishi Sunak must cut off Johnson’s ex-Prime Minister allowance to stop him milking the public purse for his own personal gain. Anything less would be an insult to bereaved families who suffered while Boris Johnson lied and partied."

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