Boris Johnson’s legal team hands over Partygate dossier to committee ahead of showdown with MPs this week on whether he misled the Commons
- Boris Johnson appearing at cross-party Privileges Committee on Wednesday
Boris Johnson today handed over his Partygate dossier to MPs probing whether he misled the Commons.
The former PM’s legal team have submitted his evidence to the cross-party Privileges Committee ahead of a potentially explosive showdown on Wednesday.
A source close to Mr Johnson urged them to publish the information ‘as soon as possible’.
The file is said to include messages from officials at the time the scandal erupted, advising him that a series of gatherings in No10 did not break the rules.
They are said to show that Mr Johnson made active efforts to find out the truth about a number of raucous gatherings at which he was not present.
Boris Johnson (left today) is due to appear before the Privileges Committee chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman (right) on Wednesday
The submission is thought to be in the form of a lengthy submission from Mr Johnson’s barrister Lord Pannick KC.
Downing Street has denied scheduling a crunch vote on the Northern Ireland Brexit deal for the same time as Mr Johnson is giving what could be four hours of evidence.
‘It’s wrong to suggest Government business changes as a result of this committee hearing,’ the spokesman said.
The PM’s spokesman also risked inflaming the Tory infighting by warning Mr Johnson’s supporters against trying to undermine the inquiry.
Conor Burns, a Tory MP who served as a minister in Mr Johnson’s government, has raised questions about the committee’s chairwoman, the Labour grandee Harriet Harman.
And Tory peer Lord Greenhalgh backed a campaign for the four Conservative MPs on the Tory-majority committee to pull out of the ‘kangaroo court’.
The long-standing ally of Mr Johnson, who served under him at Westminster and City Hall, told Times Radio: ‘I’m concerned that it will be a witch hunt.’
But No10 responded by saying Mr Sunak ‘firmly believes it’s a matter for Parliament’, adding: ‘Parliament empowered the committee to carry out its work.’
He endorsed Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt’s warning that ‘a very dim view will be taken’ of anyone who ‘tries to prevent them from carrying out this serious work’.
She also said the committee must be able to ‘work without fear or favour’.
Mr Sunak’s spokesman added: ‘We think this is a committee that’s carrying out a function asked to by Parliament, it’s a parliamentary matter, and the Leader of the House set out how we would want parliamentarians to engage with it.’
Sources close to Mr Johnson insist he will give a ‘robust defence’ of his conduct to the Commons privileges committee in a televised evidence session on Wednesday.
The committee is set to decide if Mr Johnson was ‘reckless’ about whether his statements could be misleading – a much lower bar than the ‘deliberately misleading’ test usually applied.
Allies of the former PM have accused the committee of ‘moving the goalposts’.
The dossier will also raise questions about the impartiality of the group, which some branded a ‘kangaroo court’.
In an interim report earlier this month, the committee highlighted photographs of Mr Johnson attending events in Downing Street during lockdown
In an interim report earlier this month, the committee said it should have been ‘obvious’ to Mr Johnson that rules were broken, not least because he was at some of the events in question.
It included a message from a communications director saying he was ‘struggling’ to explain how at least one event was within the rules.
Mr Johnson is expected to ask the inquiry to publish all the evidence to provide a ‘balanced’ picture to the public.
If the privileges committee finds that he misled Parliament, it can recommend that he is suspended.
Any suspension for ten days or more – which would have to be voted on by MPs – could trigger a by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.
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