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Boris Johnson: First Person to Deliberately Mislead Parliament as Prime Minister  

boris johnson

The privileges committee released its awaited 30,000-word report this morning, concluding that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliberately misled Parliament over PartyGate. The report also revealed that Johnson faced a 90-day ban from Parliament before he stood down as an MP last Friday.

The initial announcement

For almost a year, the privileges committee, made up of seven MPs who are mostly Conservatives, has been inquiring into whether Boris Johnson misled Parliament in relation to COVID-19 rule breaches carried out in Downing Street – due to the revelation that a series of parties were held, this ‘scandal’ became known as PartyGate.

On Friday, the privileges committee sent a letter to the former Prime Minister confirming that they have found him liable for misleading Parliament. In a statement announcing his resignation from his constituency seat in Uxbridge, Boris Johnson described the committee as a “kangaroo court” trying to “drive him out of Parliament” and accused them of carrying out a “political hit job on someone they oppose”.

The final report

The privileges committee report has now been finalised and has revealed that Boris Johnson deliberately misled Parliament multiple times with his statements about parties in Downing Street that breached COVID-19 rules. The report states “we have concluded above that in deliberately misleading the House, Mr Johnson committed a serious contempt. The contempt was all the more serious because it was committed by the Prime Minister, the most senior member of the government.”

Crucially, the report states that Johnson is the first person to have been found to deliberately mislead Parliament as prime minister – the privileges committee has said that “there is no precedent of a prime minister being found to have deliberately misled the House” and asserts that Johnson “misled the Committee in the presentation of his evidence.”

The report also contends that if Johnson was still an MP, the committee would recommend a 90-day suspension. It says that last week it was set to recommend a suspension for more than 10 sitting days, enough to trigger the recall election process. However, this was increased after Johnson’s attack on the committee.

The report’s summary states:

“The question which the house asked the committee is whether the house had been misled by Mr Johnson and, if so, whether that conduct amounted to contempt. It is for the house to decide whether it agrees with the committee. The house as a whole makes that decision. Motions arising from reports from this committee are debatable and amendable. The committee had provisionally concluded that Mr Johnson deliberately misled the house and should be sanctioned for it by being suspended for a period that would trigger the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015. In light of Mr Johnson’s conduct in committing a further contempt on 9 June 2023, the committee now considers that if Mr Johnson were still a member he should be suspended from the service of the House for 90 days for repeated contempts and for seeking to undermine the parliamentary process, by:

a) Deliberately misleading the house.

b) Deliberately misleading the committee.

c) Breaching confidence.

d) Impugning the committee and thereby undermining the democratic process of the house.

e) Being complicit in the campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation of the committee.”

Moreover, the committee recommended that Johnson is not given a pass that allows access to Parliament.

Responses

Johnson has regarded the report as a “charade” and claims he is victim of “protracted political assassination”. The former Prime Minister has issued a 1,700 statement regarding some of the report’s arguments as “a load of complete tripe”. He said “we didn’t believe that what we were doing was wrong, and after a year of work the Privileges Committee has found not a shred of evidence that we did”.

He also went on to accuse Sir Bernard Jenkin of “rank hypocrisy” and say that the publication of the report is “a dreadful day for democracy”.

Meanwhile, Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the Commons, has told MPs that there will be a free vote on the privileges committee’s report. The motion (to accept the report, and its recommendations) will be amendable, and it will be the main business on Monday. This follows Rishi Sunak’s statement earlier that “the findings of the report are matters for the House of Commons, and parliament will deal with it in the normal way that it does”.

Furthermore, Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader has called for Johnson to lose the annual £115,000 allowance paid to former prime ministers. She 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”.

Moreover, the Labour Party has said that Rishi Sunak should make Boris Johnson repay his legal fees that covered the privileges inquiry which reportedly amounted to £245,000 of taxpayer’s money. The shadow leader of the Commons, Thangam Debbonaire, issued this statement.

Final thought

The privileges committee’s 30,000-word report on Boris Johnson’s misleading of Parliament is damning; being the first person found to have deliberately done this while sitting as Prime Minister demonstrates the scale of the scandal. Whether Johnson will face further repercussions remains unknown but it is clear to many people that based on the seriousness of the findings, Johnson should not reap the benefits of being a former Prime Minister.

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