By Connor Steel
BORIS JOHNSON will face another investigation into the ongoing ‘partygate’ scandal following a lengthy debate in Parliament this afternoon (April 21), which ended in MPs backing a Labour motion into claims that the Prime Minister misled Parliament when he addressed fellow colleagues in the Commons on the subject of Downing Street lockdown breaches in 2020 and 2021.
Today’s development comes after the PM apologised to MPs on Tuesday following his fixed penalty notice for breaking lockdown rules in June 2020 alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak, a speech that Sir Keir Starmer called “a joke” and prompted opposition parties to increase calls for resignations after new police fines were handed out by the Metropolitan Police on April 12 (now up to 50).
Following this statement Labour tabled a motion for an investigation by the Privileges Committee, who will produce a report stating whether or not they believe Mr Johnson did deliberately mislead Parliament in comments made to the Commons. If Committee members find the PM did in-fact mislead his fellow MPs, they can recommend a sanction or exclusion from Parliament alongside an apology to the House; but will stop short of asking or forcing him to resign from his Government roles.
The motion was granted a debate and vote by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, with opposition parties urging Conservative MPs to “do the right thing”; Sir Keir saying the vote was “an important step to restoring decency, honesty and integrity into our politics”. But after a five hour debate led by the Labour front bench this afternoon the motion was passed without a formal division just before 5pm following a day of twists.
On Wednesday Tory backbenchers MPs were ordered to back a Government attempt to delay any debate or vote until inquiries by the police and civil servant Sue Gray have concluded. But after a number of Conservatives stated their unease and concerns Commons Leader Mark Spencer said they could vote how they wanted on the motion, dropping a three line whip in a U-turn with Mr Johnson confirming he was “happy to face whatever inquiries” were necessary in an interview from his official trip to India.
As part of the motion evidence will be submitted to the Privileges Committee featuring seven MPs, including one Liberal Democrat, two Labour and four Conservative representatives; although the chair, Labour’s Chris Bryant, has recused himself from the investigation as he has already spoken publicly on the subject.
The investigation is unlikely to start until later this summer after the police confirmed that although they will be recommending new fines, they won’t be made official until after the local elections on May 5 as confirmed by media sources such as BBC News. When concluded MPs will then decide on whether to implement the recommended outcomes in the final report, with the last MP sanctioned being Justin Tomlinson in 2016 for leaking a select committee report (was banned from Parliament for two days).
More information on the motion passed today can be read here, which includes the full text as outlined by Sir Keir Starmer and the comments that have sparked the new Westminster investigation.
PICTURED BY JESSICA TAYLOR (UK PARLIAMENT): The Prime Minister addresses questions on Wednesday lunchtime whilst opposition parties look on from the other side of the despatch box.