Boris Johnson misled parliament five times as PM, partygate report finds

Three-month suspension would be sought if former UK prime minister was still an MP

Boris Johnson misled MPs in the House of Commons five times when he tried to justify gatherings in No 10 during Covid-19 lockdowns, the Privileges Committee said. PA
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Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson misled the House of Commons five times in his denial of Covid-19 rules being broken in Downing Street, the Privileges Committee said in its report as it recommended a 90-day suspension.

The committee of seven said it established Mr Johnson “had knowledge of breaches of the rules and guidance that occurred in No 10”.

After his resignation as an MP on Friday and his angry response to the draft report, the committee said he should be banned for three months.

“In light of Mr Johnson’s conduct in committing a further contempt on June 9, 2023, the Committee 7 Matter referred on 21 April 2022 (conduct of Rt Hon Boris Johnson): Final Report 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,” the report read.

Mr Johnson said the Privileges Committee was “beneath contempt” because it had reached a “deranged conclusion” to deliver “what is intended to be the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination”.

The committee, which has a Tory majority and a Labour chairwoman, concluded that Mr Johnson’s attempts to mislead MPs were deliberate.

The report said the former Conservative Party leader misled politicians in Parliament on five occasions.

These occasions were outlined as follows:

  • When he said that guidance was followed completely in No 10, that the rules and guidance were followed at all times, that events in No 10 were within the rules and guidance, and that the rules and guidance had been followed at all times when he was present at gatherings
  • When he failed to tell the House about his own knowledge of the gatherings where rules or guidance had been broken
  • When he said that he relied on repeated assurances that the rules had not been broken. The assurances he received were not accurately represented by him to the House, nor were they appropriate to be cited to the House as an authoritative indication of No 10’s compliance with Covid-19 restrictions
  • When he gave the impression that there needed to be an investigation by Sue Gray before he could answer questions when he had personal knowledge that he did not reveal
  • When he purported to correct the record but, instead, continued to mislead the House and, by his continuing denials, the committee

On two further occasions, Mr Johnson was found to have been “deliberately disingenuous when he tried to reinterpret his statements to the House”.

This was a reference to when he pushed “unsustainable interpretations” of Covid-19 rules and guidance to suggest a lack of social distancing at gatherings was permissible, as long as the gathering was allowed to take place.

The second occasion referred to when Mr Johnson “advanced legally impermissible reasons to justify” gatherings in Downing Street.

His denials and explanations “were so disingenuous that they were by their very nature deliberate attempts to mislead the committee and the House, while others demonstrated deliberation because of the frequency with which he closed his mind to the truth”, the report said.

“For these reasons, we conclude that Mr Johnson’s conduct was deliberate and that he has committed a serious contempt of the House.”

The panel took several factors into account when considering the “nature and extent of Mr Johnson’s culpability” in misleading the House.

The 30,000-word report listed his “repeated and continual denial of the facts”, as well as his efforts to “rewrite the meaning of the rules and guidance to fit his own evidence” as three such factors, the report said.

The findings were shared with Mr Johnson on June 8 and he was invited by the panel to “make further representations”.

The following day he announced he was resigning as an MP with immediate effect, triggering a by-election in his north-west London constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

Mr Johnson should not be entitled to a former MP's parliamentary pass, the committee said.

MPs will debate the report on Monday and have the opportunity to vote on a sanction.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declined to say whether he will take part in the vote. The spokesman said he was not aware whether Mr Sunak had read the report.

The prime minister is confident that he never misled parliament, his spokesman said.

Johnson brands report 'a lie'

While serving as chancellor, Mr Sunak and his then-boss Mr Johnson were forced to apologise after being issued with fixed penalty notices (FPN) by the Met Police in April 2022 for breaking lockdown rules at gatherings in No 10.

Following the release of document, Mr Johnson released a lengthy statement trashing the findings. Referring to the finding that he deliberately misled MPs, the former Conservative leader said: "This is rubbish. It is a lie. 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."

He insisted that holding a gathering at No 10 to bid farewell to staff who were departing was necessary.

Mr Johnson dismissed the report as a charade and added: "The terrible truth is that it is not I who has twisted the truth to suit my purposes." Referring to the chairwoman, he added: "It is Harriet Harman and her committee." Taking aim at her again, he said: "It is for the people of this country to decide who sits in parliament, not Harriet Harman."

Mr Johnson described Thursday as a "dreadful day for MPs and for democracy", saying the charges are "trumped up".

He departed No 10 last September after being forced out by his own party over a series of scandals, including “partygate”.

After quitting his role as an MP last week, Mr Johnson hinted that he was planning to make a comeback to frontline politics, telling The Daily Express “as the great Arnold Schwarzenegger said, ‘I’ll be back’”.

Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner branded Mr Johnson a "disgraced" former politician and said he should "apologise to the people for what he has put them through". She condemned his "disgraceful pattern of behaviour" as she hit out at his attempts to "discredit" the Privileges Committee.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey branded Mr Johnson a "liar and law-breaker" and said he had "treated the public with utter disdain".

Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf said the findings of the report made for a "dark day" in Westminster.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote on Twitter: "It's there in black and white: Boris Johnson is a liar."

Two by-elections, including in Mr Johnson's former Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, will take place on July 20, local councils confirmed.

Boris Johnson through the years – in pictures

Updated: June 15, 2023, 3:02 PM