Boris Johnson: Any parliamentary investigation into partygate should wait

The Prime Minister said calls for a committee to investigate whether he misled Parliament should wait until after the police investigation.

Sam Blewett
Thursday 21 April 2022 11:30 BST
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spins khadi on a charkha during his visit to Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, as part of his two-day trip to India (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spins khadi on a charkha during his visit to Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, as part of his two-day trip to India (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Boris Johnson insisted he welcomed scrutiny of his conduct but defended his Government’s effort to delay any parliamentary investigation into claims he lied to MPs about the partygate scandal.

The Prime Minister said MPs should have the “full facts” before deciding whether a Commons committee should look into allegation that he misled the House with his denials about Downing Street parties during the coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Johnson denied misleading MPs but said the Commons should wait for the conclusion of the police investigation and the publication of senior official Sue Gray’s report into the parties before deciding whether the Privileges Committee should launch an inquiry.

I’m very keen for every possible form of scrutiny and the House of Commons can do whatever it wants to do. But all I would say is I don’t think that should happen until the investigation is completed

Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister will miss the Commons vote on a Labour-led motion calling for the Privileges Committee investigation because he is on an official visit to India.

Tory MPs had initially been ordered to back a Government amendment which would defer any decision on referring the matter to the committee until after the conclusion of the Met Police inquiry.

But in a late U-turn shortly before the debate began, Commons Leader Mark Spencer said there would be a free vote for Tory MPs – and indicated the amendment would not be pushed.

It follows speculation at Westminster that some Tory MPs were not prepared to back the Government’s attempt to kick the issue into the long grass.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the media on board his flight to India (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the media on board his flight to India (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Asked on the first day of his trade mission to India whether he knowingly or unknowingly misled Parliament, Mr Johnson said: “Of course not.”

He told reporters: “I’m very keen for every possible form of scrutiny and the House of Commons can do whatever it wants to do.

“But all I would say is I don’t think that should happen until the investigation is completed.”

A Labour source said any Conservative supporting the Government amendment would be “voting for a cover-up”.

Tories were facing pressure to back the opposition bid for a parliamentary investigation after Mr Johnson was fined by police over a birthday event in 2020.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson climbs over a JCB at the new factory in Vadodara, Gujarat (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson climbs over a JCB at the new factory in Vadodara, Gujarat (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

The Prime Minister has resisted calls to resign from opposition MPs and a handful of Tory rebels, and told reporters on his flight to Gujarat that “of course” he would fight the next general election.

Pressed on whether there were no circumstances under which he would consider resigning, Mr Johnson told journalists travelling with him: “Not a lot that spring to mind at the moment.

“But if you want to sketch some out I’m sure you could entertain your viewers with some imaginary circumstances in which I might have to resign, but I don’t propose to go into them, I can’t think of them right now.”

Mr Johnson’s aides are braced for him to receive multiple fines, having already been handed one fixed-penalty notice for the gathering on his 56th birthday.

He is thought to have been at six of the 12 events under investigation by Scotland Yard.

Mr Johnson continued: “Politics has taught me one thing which is you’re better off talking and focusing on the things that matter, the things that make a real difference to the electorate and not about politicians themselves.”

Asked if that meant partygate did not matter to the public, he said: “You’re better off talking about things other than politicians themselves, is my view.”

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