Johnson wants to push on with India trip despite vote on ‘lying’ about parties
Boris Johnson is seeking to push ahead with his visit to India this week despite it clashing with a key Commons vote on whether he lied to Parliament about coronavirus breaches.
Government sources insisted the Prime Minister’s trip for talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi was “definitely happening” despite pressure to cancel it so he can attend Thursday’s debate.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle approved an application from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and other opposition MPs allowing them to table a motion after Mr Johnson was fined by police for breaching his own Covid laws.
Labour is understood to be wording the motion to make Thursday’s vote about whether to refer Mr Johnson to the Committee of Privileges, which examines issues relating to contempt of Parliament.
The committee, the PA news agency understands, has the power to summon reports and documents.
It was unclear whether Tory MPs would be ordered to vote against the bid, but the Times reported that No 10 was considering cancelling the India trip so he could attend.
But a second Government source insisted there was “no way” the trip would be cancelled, arguing it is “critical for jobs, trade, investment and diplomacy”.
Plans for Mr Johnson to visit India have been twice cancelled in the past, first over the UK’s winter wave of Covid infections and then in April last year in response to a new variant hitting India.
The Prime Minister was expected to encourage Mr Modi to loosen ties with Vladimir Putin’s Russia over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
But Mr Johnson will not seek to “lecture” his Indian counterpart, despite concerns within Government that Mr Modi has not been strong enough in condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Downing Street said Mr Johnson will promise to work with India and other countries in a similar position to reduce their dependence on Russian fossil fuels and defence equipment.
India has not yet come out as strongly as some of us would like to see about Ukraine
Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis revealed the frustration within the Government about India’s position ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit.
“India has not yet come out as strongly as some of us would like to see about Ukraine,” the Northern Ireland Secretary told the BBC.
Mr Johnson is due to meet Mr Modi in New Delhi on Friday for talks.
At Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Mr Johnson told ministers the UK had a “deep and long-lasting partnership” with India which he would seek to expand.
He said the UK would “continue to work with other countries to provide alternative options for defence procurement and energy for India to diversify supply chains away from Russia”, according to a Downing Street summary of the meeting.
But Mr Johnson said the UK “would not seek to lecture other democratically elected governments on what course of action was best for them”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “When it comes to India and other democratically elected countries, we think the best approach is to engage with them constructively, to try to broaden the alliance of democratic states against Russia.
“We do not think that pointing fingers or shouting from the sidelines are effective ways of engaging with democratically elected countries.”
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