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Boris Johnson referred to police over fresh claims he broke lockdown rules

Former PM’s ministerial diary reportedly revealed visits by friends to Chequers during pandemic

Archie Mitchell
Tuesday 23 May 2023 21:20 BST
Will Partygate be the end of Boris Johnson? | Behind The Headlines

Boris Johnson has been referred to police by the Cabinet Office over new claims he broke lockdown rules.

The former prime minister was referred to the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police after his diary revealed visits by friends to Chequers during the pandemic, according to The Times.

The Cabinet Office passed on its concerns after several reported visits to the prime minister’s grace and favour residence were highlighted in the run-up to a public inquiry into the pandemic.

The privileges committee, which is investigating claims Mr Johnson misled parliament over Partygate, has been informed.

Mr Johnson is believed to have written to the Cabinet Office in the past week denying he broke the rules.

Boris Johnson has been reported to police over claims he may have broken lockdown rules (PA)

A statement from Mr Johnson’s office said his lawyers have written to police to “explain in detail why the Cabinet Office is entirely wrong in its assertions”.

It read: “No contact was made with Mr Johnson before these incorrect allegations were made both to the police and to the privileges committee. This is both bizarre and unacceptable.

“For whatever political purpose, it is plain that a last-ditch attempt is being made to lengthen the privileges committee investigation as it was coming to a conclusion and to undermine Mr Johnson.

“Mr Johnson’s lawyers have tonight written to the police forces involved to explain in detail why the Cabinet Office is entirely wrong in its assertions.

“The events in question were all within the rules either because they were held outdoors or came within another lawful exception. They include regular meetings with civil servants and advisers.”

It is understood the former prime minister has been advised by lawyers all the events in question were lawful. He has had no contact from the police.

A source close to Mr Johnson said the claims are “clearly politically motivated”.

Government sources told The Times that Mr Johnson gave lawyers access to his diary, including details of all his meetings, to help his defence in the public inquiry into Covid.

But the lawyers reportedly became concerned about details of visitors to Chequers during periods of restrictions in 2020 and 2021 before reporting the potential breaches to senior figures in the Cabinet Office.

The Cabinet Office said it passed on material to the authorities “in line with the obligations in the civil service code”.

Boris Johnson – pictured at a leaving gathering in No 10 during the pandemic – is being investigated by parliament’s privileges committee (PA)

A spokesperson told The Independent: “Information came to light during the process of preparing evidence for submission to the Covid Inquiry. It was identified as part of the normal disclosure review of potentially relevant documents being undertaken by the legal team for inquiry witnesses.

“In line with obligations in the civil service code, this material has been passed to the relevant authorities and it is now a matter for them.”

Responding to the allegations, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner accused Rishi Sunak of being “too weak” to end Mr Johnson’s taxpayer-funded legal support.

She said: “These new allegations are for the police to examine but the government must explain who else knew at the time and why this has only now come to light.

“The public will be shocked that they’re still paying Boris Johnson’s legal bills while he rakes in millions from speaking gigs, all because Rishi Sunak is too weak to put a stop to it.”

The Liberal Democrats said the allegations are an “outrage” and Mr Johnson should consider his position as an MP.

Deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “It’s outrageous that rumours of alleged rule-breaking by Boris Johnson are still being drip-fed to the public.

“The fact that it’s one rule for them and one rule for the rest of us still triggers a raw sense of injustice in millions of people.

“Sunak must make sure that not a single penny more of taxpayer money is spent on Johnson’s legal fund; and Johnson should finally do one decent thing and consider his position as an MP.”

Mr Johnson swore ‘hand on heart, I did not lie to the House’ when grilled by the privileges committee (Reuters TV)

Lindsay Jackson, a spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, branded Mr Johnson “totally unfit for any form of public service” and suggested he “quietly step back from public life”.

Ms Jackson said: “These revelations make a grim mockery of Boris Johnson’s claims that he didn’t break his own lockdown rules. He lied when he said to our faces that he’d done ‘all he could’ to protect our loved ones, he lied again when he said the rules hadn’t been broken in No 10, and he’s lied over and over again since then when he’s denied it.

“He is totally unfit for any form of public service, never mind being the prime minister. His legacy is one of lying, complete contempt for the ordinary people he was supposed to protect, and above all presiding over the deaths of nearly 200,000 people.

“If he had any respect he’d quietly step back from public life and reflect on the pain and suffering he has inflicted on so many.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “We are in receipt of information from the Cabinet Office passed to us on 19 May 2023, which we are currently assessing.

“It relates to potential breaches of the Health Protection Regulations between June 2020 and May 2021 at Downing Street.”

Thames Valley Police added: “We can confirm that on Thursday we received a report of potential breaches of the Health Protection Regulations between June 2020 and May 2021 at Chequers, Buckinghamshire. We are currently assessing this information.”

The revelation comes as the former prime minister is being investigated by parliament’s privileges committee, which in March published initial findings saying the Commons may have been misled multiple times.

During an hours-long grilling by the committee, Mr Johnson swore “hand on heart, I did not lie to the House”.

He insisted mid-pandemic gatherings in Downing Street were “essential” and stated he had been “misremembering” when claiming during Partygate that rules had been followed at all times.

But committee chair Harriet Harman hit out at the “flimsy” assurances he was relying on for his Commons denials. Mr Johnson is now awaiting the committee’s findings, as well as what punishment it may recommend.

If the committee finds a contempt has been committed, it will recommend a punishment which would then have to be approved by the House of Commons as a whole.

Sanctions could range from a simple apology to ordering that Mr Johnson be suspended from parliament.

Any suspension of 10 sitting days or more would trigger a recall petition, which could lead to a tricky by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat.

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