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Boris Johnson faced 90-day suspension for misleading MPs before he quit – UK politics live | Politics - All The News You Must Read In One Place!
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Boris Johnson faced 90-day suspension for misleading MPs before he quit – UK politics live | Politics

Boris Johnson faced 90-day suspension for misleading MPs before he quit – UK politics live | Politics

Privileges committee says Johnson would face 90-day suspension if he were still MP

The committee says, if Boris Johnson were still an MP, it would recommend a suspension for 90 days. It says that last week it was set to recommend a suspension for more than 10 sitting days, enough to trigger the recall election process. But it says it increased the hypothetical punishment in the light of his statement on Friday night, attacking the committee and its draft findings, which itself was “a very serious contempt”.

Johnson is now an ex-MP, and so a suspension punishment can no longer apply. But the committee says Johnson should not be entitled the pass normally given to former MPs allowing them access to parliament.

In its summary the committee says:

The question which the house asked the committee is whether the house had been misled by Mr Johnson and, if so, whether that conduct amounted to contempt. It is for the house to decide whether it agrees with the committee. The house as a whole makes that decision. Motions arising from reports from this committee are debatable and amendable. The committee had provisionally concluded that Mr Johnson deliberately misled the house and should be sanctioned for it by being suspended for a period that would trigger the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015. In light of Mr Johnson’s conduct in committing a further contempt on 9 June 2023, the committee now considers that if Mr Johnson were still a member he should be suspended from the service of the House for 90 days for repeated contempts and for seeking to undermine the parliamentary process, by:
a) Deliberately misleading the house.
b) Deliberately misleading the committee.
c) Breaching confidence.
d) Impugning the committee and thereby undermining the democratic process of the house.
e) Being complicit in the campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation of the committee.
We recommend that he should not be entitled to a former member’s pass.

Updated at 04.40 EDT

Key events

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How two opposition MPs on privileges committee wanted it to say Johnson deserved to be expelled from Commons

Here is a question from a reader.

Is the privileges committee unanimous in its findings? i.e. Did all the Tory MPs on the committee agree with the non-Tory? Is it a requirement at all MPs on a committee should agree with the final outcomes/opinions?

There are seven MPs on the committee and none of them have dissented from the report, and so in that sense it is unanimous. But, as the minutes reveal (on page 103 of the report), at a meeting on Tuesday, where the final version was agreed, the SNP MP Allan Dorans proposed an amendment to the final paragraph. Instead of it saying that if Johnson were still an MP they would be recommending a 90-day suspension, he wanted it to say that if Johnson were still an MP, they would be recommending his expulsion from the Commons. In a vote on the amendment, the Labour MP Yvonne Fovargue also backed the idea. But they were outvoted by the four Tories on the committee, Andy Carter, Alberto Costa, Sir Bernard Jenkin and Sir Charles Walker, who stuck with the 90-day proposals. Harriet Harman, the Labour chair, did not vote.

No 10 declines to back calls for Johnson to lose ex-PM’s allowance, or to be made to repay inquiry legal fees

Downing Street has rejected call’s for Boris Johnson’s honours list to be rescinded in the light of the privileges committee’s report. Asked about this proposals, the PM’s spokesperson told journalists at the morning lobby briefing:

When it comes to honours, that’s a longstanding convention, the prime minister has abided by convention, that’s not going to change.

The spokesperson also said there were “no plans” either to force Johnson to repay the money spent by the government on his legal advice during the privileges inquiry (the Labour proposal – see 11am) or to remove his allowance as an ex-PM (the Lib Dem proposal – see 10.06am.)

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On the allowance, the spokesperson said:

These arrangements are fairly longstanding – it’s not a personal salary or allowance, it’s the reimbursement of expenses for office and secretarial costs.

The Commons vote on the privileges committee report on Boris Johnson will take place on his birthday, Michael Savage from the Observer reports. He will be 59.

In the latest *a bit on the nose to be honest* piece of Westminster script writing, Monday’s vote on the Boris partygate report will take place… on his birthday.

h/t @tamcohen

— Michael Savage (@michaelsavage) June 15, 2023

Downing Street won’t say whether Rishi Sunak will be in the Commons on Monday for the vote on the privileges committee report, John Stevens from the Mirror reports. He suspects Sunak might discover a diary appointment elsewhere.

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Wonder if Rishi Sunak may find somewhere to be far from London on Monday

No10 refusing to say if he will take part in Commons vote on Boris Johnson report

— John Stevens (@johnestevens) June 15, 2023

No 10 had ‘culture of not adhering to any rules’ during Covid, says new evidence from official published by committee

Alongside its main report, the privileges committee has this morning published a short document with additional evidence and material, not previously published, that it relied upon when coming to its conclusions.

The new material includes this written submission from a No 10 official who explains how Covid guidance was regularly ignored in Downing Street in 2020. There was a culture of “not adhering to any rules”, they say.

Staff were even warned, before they went outside the front door, not to go outside in groups because outside No 10 they would be expected to observe social distancing.

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Evidence from No 10 official Photograph: Privileges committee
Updated at 07.21 EDT

The privileges committee report does not actually say that Boris Johnson “lied” to MPs. But it says he “deliberately misled” MPs (see 9.13am), which would match the definition of lying to most of us.

But Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, has used the term. She told the BBC:

Boris Johnson is not only a law breaker but he’s a liar …
He needs to apologise for what he’s put the public through – he won’t though because Boris Johnson never accepts responsibility for what he does.

Updated at 06.46 EDT

Harry Cole, the political editor of the Sun, has also spoken to a “senior Tory” who thinks colleagues who vote for the privileges committee report risk being deselected.

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Senior Tory source: “I’m very pissed off with Boris and want him to go away but this report is a complete joke. The sanctions are so ludicrously excessive and, Bernard Jenkin aside, I’m staggered that any Tory MP would vote for it. 1/2

— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) June 15, 2023

…I suspect they will be having some serious issues with their associations and wouldn’t be remotely surprised if they were given the boot.” 2/2

— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) June 15, 2023

Updated at 06.40 EDT

Mordaunt implicitly criticises Johnson supporters threatening Tory MPs with deselection if they back committee’s report

Speaking to MPs during questions on next week’s business, Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the Commons, said MPs should not be subject to pressure ahead of Monday’s vote.

My advice to all [MPs] is, having had the committee carry out the work we asked them to do, is to read the report, is to make their own judgments about it, and take the task that is our privilege to do seriously and soberly. And members should use their own judgment on that.
I can confirm that the motion before us will be votable, it will be amendable, and it is house business, and so I am expecting a free vote.
And I know also … these are difficult matters for the house. We have to look at the evidence, we have to look at the report. But we are talking about people who are friends and colleagues. It will be a painful process and a sad process for all of us, the tasks that we face on Monday.
But all of us must do what we think is right, and others must leave us alone to do so.

Mordaunt was referring to supporters of Boris Johnson who are denouncing the privileges committee report on social media and some of whom seem to be suggesting that Tory MPs who back the report could be subject to deselection.

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This is from David Campbell Bannerman, a former Tory MEP who now chairs the Conservative Democratic Organisation, a new group pushing for more grassroots democracy in the party. It is widely seen as a closet “bring back Johnson” campaign.

Updated at 06.41 EDT

Penny Mordaunt says MPs to get free vote on approving privileges committee’s report on Monday

Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the Commons, has told MPs that there will be a free vote on the privileges committee’s report. The motion (to accept the report, and its recommendations) will be amendable, and it will be the main business on Monday.

2/ Monday 19 June – Motion relating to the 5th Report from the Committee Of Privileges

Followed By

General Debate on the UK Tech Industry following London Tech Week

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— Leader of the House of Commons (@CommonsLeader) June 15, 2023

Labour says Johnson should repay £245,000 taxpayers’ money spent funding his legal support during privileges inquiry

Labour says Rishi Sunak must give MPs the chance to approve the privileges committee report. The shadow leader of the Commons, Thangam Debbonaire, has issued this statement.

The evidence in this report is damning and the conclusions the committee came to are clear. Boris Johnson is a lawbreaker and a liar. Rishi Sunak must now confirm the government will follow precedent and give the house the opportunity to approve the report and endorse the sanctions in full.
Rishi Sunak’s weakness means he has never stood up to Boris Johnson. This report makes it even more inconceivable that the prime minister approved Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list just a week ago, as part of some sort of grubby deal rather than waiting for this report and saying ‘no’ to his former boss.

Sunak has already indicated that MPs will get a vote. (See 8.13am.) We should get confirmation when we get the statement on next week’s business in the Commons, in the next few minutes.

Debbonaire said Johnson should also be asked to repay the £245,000 of taxpayers’s money spent funding his legal support during the inquiry. She said:

Rishi Sunak is so out of touch he thought it was right that taxpayers’ hard-earned money fund Boris Johnson’s ongoing lies to the public. Given the findings of the committee, Rishi Sunak should demand Boris Johnson pays back every penny.

Updated at 06.34 EDT
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My colleague Henry Dyer says there are two other examples of MPs being told they should be suspended for more than 90 days in recent times. (See 10.17am.) In 2012 the Commons standards and privileges committee said Denis MacShane should be suspended for 12 months for falsifying his expenses, but he resigned as an MP before the Commons approved the punishment. And in 2014 Patrick Mercer, a Conservative, resigned as an MP after the Commons ruled he should be suspended for six months for lobbying.

Labour’s Keith Vaz also faced a six-month suspension. But he did not serve this in full because an election was called soon after the punishment was imposed, and he stood down.

Updated at 06.39 EDT

The SNP says the privileges committee report is damning not just for Boris Johnson, but for the whole Conservative government. In a statement Mhairi Black, the SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster, said:

This report is utterly damning for Boris Johnson and this arrogant Tory government, and it underlines why Scotland needs to escape Westminster control with independence.
Johnson may have left parliament but his toxic legacy continues – with yet another out-of-touch Tory prime minister imposing Brexit, cuts and attacks on devolution against Scotland’s will.

Updated at 06.47 EDT
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Johnson first person to be found to have deliberately misled Commons as PM, says privileges committee

In its report the privileges committee says there is no precedent of a prime minister being found to have deliberately misled the Commons, as Boris Johnson is found to have done. It says:

We have concluded above that in deliberately misleading the house Mr Johnson committed a serious contempt. The contempt was all the more serious because it was committed by the prime minister, the most senior member of the government.
There is no precedent for a prime minister having been found to have deliberately misled the house. He misled the house on an issue of the greatest importance to the house and to the public, and did so repeatedly.
He declined our invitation to reconsider his assertions that what he said to the house was truthful. His defence to the allegation that he misled was an ex post facto justification and no more than an artifice. He misled the committee in the presentation of his evidence.

Updated at 05.43 EDT

A reader asks:

Is 90 days’ suspension unprecedented?

Almost, but not quite. If Boris Johnson were still an MP, and if he were suspended for 90 days, it would be the second longest suspension since 1979. The only one longer was the six-month suspension imposed on Keith Vaz in 2019 for offering to buy drugs for sex workers and failing to cooperate with an investigation.

This Commons library note includes a table setting out all the suspensions imposed on MPs since 1979.

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UPDATE: Two other MPs have faced suspensions of six months or more, but resigned instead. See 10.51am for more details.

Updated at 05.53 EDT

Lib Dems call for Johnson to lose £115,000 annual allowance paid to ex-PMs

The Liberal Democrats are calling for Boris Johnson to be stripped of the £115,000 annual allowance paid to all former prime ministers in the light of today’s report. In a statement, Daisy Cooper, the Lib Dem deputy leader, says:

This damning report should be the final nail in the coffin for Boris Johnson’s political career.
It is completely unprecedented for a former prime minister to be found to have been a law-breaker and serial liar, who treated the public and parliament with total disdain.
Rishi Sunak must cut off Johnson’s ex-prime minister allowance to stop him milking the public purse for his own personal gain.
Anything less would be an insult to bereaved families who suffered while Boris Johnson lied and partied.

Why Johnson thinks privileges committee report is flawed

Boris Johnson’s team is now circulating a six-point analysis purportedly explaining why the privileges committee report is flawed. It does not seem to be available online, so, for the record, here it is.

1) This is a kangaroo court. The committee has been a kangaroo court from the outset and, as Lord Pannick KC has repeatedly pointed out, it has acted as judge and jury in its own case in a way that is contrary to all legal practice.
2) The committee has contradicted the police’s own findings – setting itself above the law. The committee has been so desperate to convict Boris Johnson that it has now said that all workplace events – thank yous and birthdays and motivational meetings – were illegal. That is insane, and has no basis in the law. The committee’s view is contradicted by what the Metropolitan police themselves found – the police said that Boris Johnson did not break the rules by attending the farewell events.
3) The committee claims to know exactly what Boris saw at certain times and dates despite there being no evidence for this – as if the committee were inside his head. It has been driven to claim that it knows what Boris Johnson saw with his own eyes, and that he “must have known” that the event on December 18 2020 was illegal because he “must have seen it” as he went up the stairs to his flat. This is just crazy. The committee has no idea what was going on or what Boris Johnson saw. In fact, he saw nothing that struck him as being remotely untoward. The committee is just making things up.
4) If Boris Johnson must have known this was illegal, others did too – the committee’s logic is that dozens of other figures also knew. The committee’s entire argument is that Boris Johnson “must have known” that events were illegal. This is rubbish. If Boris Johnson must have known, then what about Rishi Sunak, Simon Case, Sue Gray and all the other senior figures who were roving the corridors of Downing Street? Why didn’t they know?
5) The report uses sleight of hand by mischaracterising Boris’s statements. The committee continually twists what Boris Johnson said in the house, claiming that he was offering general comments when he was in fact talking about specific events.
6) How is this process fair – especially given allegations that committee members were at rule-breaking events? If all thank-yous and birthdays were illegal, then how does Sir Bernard Jenkin justify his attendance at his wife’s birthday party, where the rules seem plainly to have been broken?

Updated at 05.54 EDT
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Committee accepts Johnson’s defence of 16 new potential lockdown breaches – but says it would be contempt if he’s lying

In paragraph 95, on page 31 of the report, the privileges committee says that in May the government gave it new evidence relating to 16 events at Chequers or No 10 where lockdown rules may have been broken. This information came from Boris Johnson’s diaries, which were being reviewed by lawyers preparing material for the Covid inquiry. The committee says it was told the entries were “problematic” and that this was “based on an assessment by Government Legal Department as to events/activities which could reasonably be considered to constitute breaches of Covid Regulations”.

The committee says it asked Johnson about these events. Johnson’s lawyers said:

Each event was lawful for one or more of the following reasons: the gathering was reasonably necessary for work purposes; the gathering took place outside; the rule of six applied at the time; the linked household provisions applied; the linked childcare provisions applied; and/or emergency assistance and/or care/assistance was being provided to a vulnerable (pregnant) person.

The committee says it has no evidence to disprove this, and that it decided not to investigate futher. But it says that, if it were to turn out that Johnson’s explanations were not true, then he might have committed a further contempt.

Mr Johnson has provided, under a statement of truth, explanations of the 16 events referred to in the recent material submitted to us by the Government. We have no evidence conflicting with his account. We do not wish to incur the further delay to our inquiry that would result from a detailed investigation of these events, and therefore we treat Mr Johnson’s explanations as prima facie true. If for any reasons it subsequently emerges that Mr Johnson’s explanations are not true, then he may have committed a further contempt.

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Andrew Sparrow

Published: 2023-06-15 12:21:32

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