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Privileges Committee rejects Lord Pannick criticisms of Boris Johnson probe

Privileges Committee rejects Lord Pannick criticisms of Boris Johnson probe

Lord Pannick (Credit: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News)

4 min read

In the latest issue of The House magazine, a bumper edition for Conservative Conference 2022, we offer the latest parliamentary news...

The House of Commons Committee of Privileges, which is currently investigating the conduct of Boris Johnson as prime minister, has rejected the legal opinion of Lord Pannick who criticised its inquiry.

The seven-member committee of senior MPs released a special report describing the view set out by Pannick as “founded on a systemic misunderstanding of the parliamentary process and misplaced analogies with the criminal law”.

The Privileges Committee said it dismissed the opinion of Pannick and Jason Pobjoy, commissioned by the government and published in the final days of the Johnson administration, on the basis of “impartial advice” from Clerks of the House, the Office of Speaker’s Counsel and its own legal adviser.

The key disagreement is over whether MPs should be punished for misleading the House even when it is unintentional, with Pannick arguing this would have a “chilling effect”. The committee said this concern was “wholly misplaced and itself misleading”.

Pannick also asserted that the committee should allow Johnson to be represented by counsel who would speak on his behalf and cross-examine witnesses. The MPs replied that this atypical arrangement would require a decision by the Commons.

In April, MPs passed a Labour motion calling for Johnson to be subject to a probe by the cross-party committee for having potentially committed a contempt of Parliament by misleading it over “partygate”.

When accused of hosting parties in Downing Street that contravened Covid laws, Johnson told the Commons in December 2021 that “all guidance was followed”. The Metropolitan Police later issued more than 100 fines for illegal gatherings in Downing Street.

If the Privileges Committee finds that Johnson’s conduct constituted contempt of Parliament, it could recommend sanctions including suspension from the Commons. If Johnson were suspended for 10 sitting days, a recall petition would be triggered in his Uxbridge constituency. 

Memorial for Baroness Howe

A memorial for the late homelessness campaigner and crossbench peer Baroness Howe of Idlicote will be held on 29 November.

Wife of former Conservative deputy prime minister Lord Howe, she died in March after a “brave battle with cancer,” her family said. A service in honour of her life and work will be held at noon in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster.

Howe was deputy chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission from 1975 to 1979 and later chaired the Broadcasting Standards Commission.

Her campaigns included opposing internet pornography, and she once spent a night on the street to highlight the plight of the homeless.

Howe was married to her late husband – who, as Sir Geoffrey served in the government of Margaret Thatcher, before being instrumental in her downfall – for 62 years. The couple had three children: Caroline, Amanda and Alec.

To register for the service, go to: https://TheRtHonBaronessHoweCBE.eventbrite.co.uk

Conservative hereditary peer Lord Sudeley dies aged 83

Lord Sudeley, a lifelong Conservative who sat in the Upper House as a hereditary peer for 39 years until he was expelled by the House of Lords Act 1999, has died aged 83 of undisclosed causes.

The aristocrat was known for his controversial statements, such as when he complained that the abolition of slavery had cost his plantation-owning family money and told The Observer in 1998 that his politics were as far right “as it’s possible to be”.

The peer served as chair and president of the Monday Club, a pressure group opposed to the Race Relations Act and to non-white immigration to Britain. Its ties to the Conservative Party were cut in 2001. He was also president of the far-right Traditional Britain Group.

After leaving the Lords, when Tony Blair’s Labour government scrapped the automatic right of all hereditary peers to take their places in the Upper Chamber, Sudeley made numerous unsuccessful bids to return.

He contested more than a dozen Lords by-elections over the years, receiving either zero votes or one vote from the Conservative or crossbench group of hereditary peers on each occasion.

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