Boris Johnson claims reason for partygate fines ‘remains unclear’
Boris Johnson has claimed it “remains unclear” to him – and possibly to Rishi Sunak – why they were fined for breaching lockdown laws after the Met Police investigation into partygate.
The former prime minister has released his defence dossier ahead of a marathon evidence session before the cross-party parliamentary privileges committee tomorrow.
In the 52-page defence dossier, compiled with barrister Lord Pannick KC, Johnson wrote: “I have accepted the conclusion of the police that my participation in the gathering in the Cabinet Room on my birthday, which I knew nothing about in advance, was unlawful.
“However, to this day it remains unclear to me – and I believe the Prime Minister may feel the same – how precisely we committed an offence under the regulations.”
Johnson told the committee he had “never been provided with any rationale by the police, in particular how some individuals that attended did not receive a fixed penalty notice”.
“We had a sandwich lunch together and they wished me Happy Birthday,” he wrote.
Elsewhere in the dossier, Johnson says he has accepted he misled MPs but insisted his partygate denials were made “in good faith” based on what he “honestly” knew at the time.
He insisted he “did not intentionally or recklessly mislead the House”.
Why was Johnson fined over partygate?
Johnson was served a fixed penalty notice by the Metropolitan Police for attending the gathering for his own birthday at Downing Street in June 2020 as part of a police probe.
The then-chancellor Sunak, who later resigned his cabinet post triggering Johnson’s exit from government, also received a fine from the police.
Johnson has received an estimated £220,000 of taxpayers money to mount a legal defence to the probe by the privileges committee, according to the PA news agency.
Tory MPs are expected to get a free vote on any sanctions to be applied following the committee’s findings – which will ultimately be up to the full House of Commons.
Sunak told BBC Breakfast votes on the issue would be “matters for Parliament and the House and MPs as individuals, rather than for government”.
What could happen at the privileges committee?
If Johnson fails to convince the committee – chaired by Labour MP Harriet Harman – that he did not deliberately mislead Parliament, he could be found in contempt and be suspended.
This move could ultimately lead to a by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat, where he has recently been reselected to stand for the Conservatives at the next election.
The hearing will clash with MPs voting on the Stormont brake – a key plank of Sunak’s Brexit Northern Ireland deal, the Windsor Framework, set to be agreed with the EU on Friday.
No10 has been approached for comment.