MPs to conclude partygate inquiry in the aftermath of Johnson’s resignation
By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent
MPs will meet in the wake of Boris Johnson’s dramatic Commons exit to conclude their inquiry into whether the former prime minister misled Parliament over No 10 lockdown parties.
The Privileges Committee has pledged to continue the investigation process after Mr Johnson stepped down as an MP and launched a scathing attack on the probe, branding it a “witch hunt”.
The panel is set to meet in Westminster on Monday with a view to deciding when to publish its report.
There has been speculation the seven-person committee, which is chaired by veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman but has a Conservative majority, could release its findings as soon as Wednesday.
Commons aides on Sunday would only repeat the committee’s commitment, made in the wake of Mr Johnson’s resignation, to publish its conclusion “promptly”.
The probe is thought to have ruled that Mr Johnson lied to Parliament when he told MPs that Covid rules were followed in Downing Street despite boozy parties taking place while social distancing restrictions were in place.
Reports suggest the panel was set to recommend at least a 10-day suspension, reaching the threshold for a by-election to be potentially triggered in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.
Mr Johnson has accused the committee of “bias” and likened it to a “kangaroo court”.
The Privileges Committee, in response, said Mr Johnson had “impugned the integrity of the House” with his attack.
While the former Tory Party leader would no longer be impacted by a decision to suspend him, given he has stood down from the green benches, the committee could possibly choose to apply other sanctions.
Former Commons speaker John Bercow was banned last year from being permitted a pass to gain entry to the parliamentary estate after being found guilty of bullying by Westminster’s Independent Expert Panel.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is due to give a speech at London Tech Week on Monday.
He is expected to take questions from the media in which he could face questions about the manner of his predecessor’s resignation.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson has warned that the UK Covid-19 Inquiry could be “frustrated” following a legal submission to Baroness Hallett’s investigation.
The pandemic leader has offered to hand unredacted WhatsApp messages and notebooks to the inquiry, bypassing the Cabinet Office and its judicial review.
Ministers have begun a High Court challenge to stop the chairwoman being given what they regard as “unambiguously irrelevant” materials.
A letter sent to the inquiry on Friday by Government lawyers noted that Mr Johnson took “a different position” and suggested officials would not give him back materials if “he intended simply to provide it, without protection, on to the inquiry”.
Mr Johnson told The Times that the Cabinet Office was refusing to return his notebooks in case he turns them over to the inquiry, which is due to hear from witnesses for the first time this week.
“The Cabinet Office’s foot-dragging approach to the inquiry is costing public time and money,” he told the newspaper.
He said the Government’s position was “now — in my view — frustrating the inquiry’s work”.