ex-PM Johnson might have lied to the legislature
ex-PM Johnson might have lied to the legislature

LONDON: A UK parliamentary committee said on Friday that former prime minister Boris Johnson may have repeatedly lied to the legislature about his knowledge of lockdown-breaking parties in his Downing Street office.

Ahead of the former prime minister testifying before the panel later this month, the privileges committee shared with him a preliminary report suggesting Johnson may have misled the House of Commons on at least four occasions.

The findings, according to the committee, are supported by witness statements, WhatsApp messages, emails and photographs taken by a Downing Street photographer.

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Beginning in late 2021, Johnson was inundated with news stories alleging that he and his staff had prevented COVID-19 by holding "Wine Time Fridays", birthday parties, and "bring your own wine" office events. The law was broken with the intention of stopping the spread of 19.

The revelations provoked a public outcry, especially at a time when so many people were prevented from visiting relatives because they were battling illness or had passed away.

Johnson repeatedly assured MPs that all instructions had been followed and that no lockdown rules had been broken in an attempt to quell the uproar.

Johnson and other officers were eventually fined by police for breaking lockdown rules, and the scandal contributed to their downfall.

The committee said there was evidence that those who were advising Mr Johnson on what to say to the media and in the House were also finding it difficult to maintain that some gatherings were legal.

Johnson has agreed to appear before the committee later this month, when he will have a chance to address the panel's preliminary findings.

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The committee is tasked with determining whether Johnson intentionally misled lawmakers and whether those breaches were serious enough to warrant a contempt penalty.

Johnson is still a member of parliament, even though he is no longer prime minister. Johnson could be subject to a recall vote if found in contempt.

Johnson claimed on Friday that there was no evidence in the report that he deliberately misled Parliament. I do not think I am guilty of contempt and I have not misled the House. And I am confident that the process will happily vindicate me," he said in a BBC interview.

On 21 April, the House of Commons referred the situation to the Committee of Privileges. Four representatives from Johnson's Conservative Party, two from the main opposition Labor Party and one from the Scottish National Party make up the committee.

Johnson agreed to testify before the committee, but according to the panel's report, his government was not very cooperative with the investigation.

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The government provided documents on 24 August in response to a request for material held by the committee that had been "so heavily redacted as to have been rendered devoid of any evidentiary value".

After Johnson left office, the government forwarded the declassified documents to the committee in November.

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