How Boris Johnson probe Partygate ‘lies’ will work while PM faces wait until October

The Privileges Committee is investigating whether Boris Johnson lied to Parliament about Partygate after Sue Gray’s report on parties at Downing Street. Here’s what you need to know

Boris Johnson is being investigated for lying to Parliament
Boris Johnson is being investigated for lying to Parliament

Boris Johnson faces the growing risk of a no-confidence vote after a drip of Tory MPs cut ties with his leadership following the Sue Gray report.

Nearly 30 have now confirmed they want him to resign, with more doing so privately before a 54-letter threshold to trigger a vote.

A key issue raised by Tory MPs is not the Downing Street parties themselves, but whether Boris Johnson lied about them.

Former Attorney General Jeremy Wright, who has called for Boris Johnson’s resignation, said there was not enough evidence to say either way.

That question may well be answered by the Commons Privileges Committee, which is investigating whether Boris Johnson lied to Parliament.

Boris Johnson is under pressure for his leadership


(Getty Images)

However, an insider suggested the committee’s report might not be produced until late October or November. It hasn’t even met to discuss the case.

So what is the Privileges Committee, why could its investigation be so damning, and why will it take so long? We will accompany you.

What is the Privileges Board?

Seven MPs – four of them Tories – investigating whether MPs violated parliamentary privileges.

It can find MPs who despise Parliament for “deliberately misleading” the Commons – like Secretary of War John Profumo denying an affair in 1963 – and recommend suspending them.

Inquiries are rare and only take place when ordered by the entire House of Commons.

The last MP to face a sanction was Tory Justin Tomlinson in 2016 and the last MP under investigation for misleading MPs was Labor’s Stephen Byers in 2006. He “accidentally” gave an inaccurate answer, so it there was no contempt.

The committee is normally chaired by Labor’s Chris Bryant, but he has stepped down. Labor veteran Harriet Harman, mother of the House, is expected to lead the inquiry.

Labor veteran Harriet Harman, mother of the House, is expected to lead the inquiry


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What is examined?

Whether Boris Johnson intentionally misled Parliament by lying about Partygate

The inquiry “includes, but is not limited to,” four statements made by Boris Johnson in December 2021 in which he denies the No. 10 parties.

They include “all guidelines were followed” – a claim he later corrected but said he believed was correct at the time – and an outright denial that there was a party on November 13, 2020.

The Prime Minister was later pictured holding a glass of fizz as he said farewell to aide Lee Cain that day. He has claimed it is his “duty” to attend.

The committee may also, if it so chooses, investigate new allegations that Carrie Johnson held a meeting at the home on June 19, 2020 that was not mentioned in Sue Gray’s Partygate report.

Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie faces new allegations over a party at Number 10


(Getty Images)

Can Boris or Carrie Johnson be summoned as a witness?

Yes. Selected committees have the power to request written evidence — like Carrie Johnson’s text message — or summon witnesses to testify.

The committee can do this either through public or private hearings.

In the case of Justin Tomlinson, the hearing was private at the time, but a transcript was released after he was found for contempt.

A source suggested Tory MPs want to hold public hearings at the panel to avoid accusations of “taunting”.

The committee could get bogged down if, for example, Carrie Johnson refuses to testify.

When Dominic Cummings refused to testify before Parliament, he was found guilty of contempt in 2019. But as a non-MP, the Privileges Committee had little power to sanction him.

A spokeswoman for Ms Johnson did not respond to a question about whether she would be willing to testify.

When is the report coming?

A source close to the inquiry said there was “no way” it will appear before the summer – and it probably won’t be until the end of October at the earliest.

The committee has not even met to discuss the issue and is unlikely to do so for the next two weeks.

Chris Bryant will not retire from the committee until after June 6 because it is still completing separate work.

Harriet Harman is expected to be elected in his place late next week, followed by the committee’s MPs who will elect a chair.

Then they meet and compile lists of evidence and witnesses that could struggle for availability and legal exchange for weeks.

That leaves the issue hanging over Boris Johnson at two key by-elections on June 23 and the last Tory conference in October.

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