Boris Johnson assured there were no Downing Street gatherings in breach of pandemic lockdown rules
London, Thanasis Gavos
The dossier of arguments received from Boris Johnson based on which the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom rejects allegations of deliberate or reckless misleading of parliament over partygate, UK’s parliamentary immunity committee has revealed.
Committee members received and reviewed the file on Monday ahead of Mr Johnson’s four-hour appearance before them on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Johnson admits in his dossier that he misled the House of Commons when he repeatedly assured the House of Commons that there were no Downing Street gatherings in breach of the pandemic lockdown rules, but stresses: “When (my) statements were made, they were made in good faith and based on what I honestly knew and believed at the time.”
He adds that he was relying on assurances from “trusted advisers” as it can only be reasonable for a prime minister to do. He therefore rejects the commission’s claim in an interim report that has been published that it should have been “obvious” to him that the lockdown rules were being violated.
“There is no evidence to support any allegation that I deliberately or recklessly misled the body. There is not one document to indicate that I received any warning or recommendation that any event was or might be in breach of the rules or guidelines,” Boris Johnson sums up.
The former prime minister also accuses the immunity committee of “significantly exceeding its terms of reference” by investigating whether he recklessly misled MPs. “Unprecedented and outrageous” even Mr. Johnson characterizes the investigation being conducted.
If the committee finds that Boris Johnson recklessly misled the legislature, then it has the right to recommend a sanction, which would have to be approved by the full House of Commons.
If the penalty is to suspend Mr Johnson from the legislature for at least ten days, then voters in the west London constituency he represents in Parliament will be given the opportunity to call for a snap election to elect a new MP.
It is recalled that the Metropolitan Police has judged that several gatherings in Downing Street and other government buildings violated the rules of the lockdowns, with Mr. Johnson even having received a fine for his presence at one.
Regarding this gathering, on his birthday in June 2020, in the file he submitted to the committee, Mr. Johnson expresses a question about his punishment. “I was never given the rationale by the police, especially why some who attended were not fined. We had a sandwich lunch together and they wished me a happy birthday. I was not told beforehand that this would happen. We didn’t eat cake and nobody sang happy birthday. The main topic of discussion was the response to COVID-19.”
State official Sue Gray’s parallel report into partygate pointed to a “failure of leadership and judgement” as the context that allowed the rules to be breached.
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