03 March 2023

The partygate inquiry: The key questions facing Boris Johnson

03 March 2023

The Commons Privileges Committee has set out the key issues it intends to examine in its inquiry into whether Boris Johnson misled Parliament over lockdown parties in Downing Street.

In a report issued ahead of a witness session with the former prime minister later this month, the committee said it has already seen evidence suggesting it would have been “obvious” to him at the time that events he attended in No 10 were in breach of official guidance.

These are the main points of the report:

– Mr Johnson was aware of the rules and guidance on social distancing in place at the time having repeatedly referred to them at press conferences between May and December 2020.

– Between May 2020 and January 2021 – when there were restrictions in place on gatherings of more than two people – Mr Johnson was present at seven gatherings at No 10, including one in the garden and another to celebrate his birthday.

There was also evidence that he was aware of the regular Friday evening drinks sessions in the No 10 press area and occasionally joined them himself.

– On December 1 2021, Mr Johnson told the House that “all guidance was followed completely in No 10” and the following week, on December 8, he told MPs he had been repeatedly assured there was “no party and that no Covid rules were broken”.

– On December 15 and again on January 19 2022 he urged MPs to wait for Sue Gray’s report but in response to direct questions did not reveal his own knowledge of events.

– Mr Johnson may have misled the House when he said no rules or guidance had been broken – an assertion Ms Gray and the Metropolitan Police later both concluded was not correct.

– The House may have been misled when Mr Johnson failed to tell MPs about his own knowledge of the gatherings, given the evidence that he was present at a number of them himself.

– Mr Johnson’s “purported assurance” that no rules had been broken came initially from his director of communications, former journalist Jack Doyle, and was originally developed as a “line to take” with the media.

– Mr Johnson apparently failed to correct statements he repeatedly made and did not use the well-established procedures of the House to correct something that was wrong at the earliest opportunity.

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