PM's standards adviser suggests Johnson may have broken ministerial code with partygate fine

Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen has the latest on the PM's situation as one of his advisors suggests he broke the ministerial code.

Boris Johnson's standard adviser has suggested the PM may have broken the ministerial code when he was fined by police for breaking coronavirus rules.

Lord Geidt has demanded a public explanation from Mr Johnson as to why he believes the code was not breached.

He appeared to threaten his resignation as an independent adviser if the PM did not explain why being issued a fixed penalty notice did not constitute a breach of the code.

He said: "In the case of the Fixed Penalty Notice recently issued to and paid by the prime minister, a legitimate question has arisen as to whether those facts alone might have constituted a breach of the overarching duty within the Ministerial Code of complying with the law.

"It may be that the prime minister considers that no such breach of his Ministerial Code has occurred. In that case, I believe a prime minister should respond accordingly, setting out his case in public."

The PM responded, telling Lord Geidt that he'd "considered past precedents of ministers who have unwittingly breached regulations where there was no intent to break the law" and decided that neither him nor Chancellor Rishi Sunak had broken the code.

"I have been fully accountable to Parliament and the British people and rightly apologised for the mistake," he said.

Carl Dinnen analyses how much extra trouble Lord Geidt's intervention spells for the PM.

He claimed the ministerial code had not been broken because he'd "corrected the parliamentary record in relation to statements and I have followed the principles of leadership and accountability in doing so".

He added: "In relation to the fixed penalty notice for my attendance in the Cabinet Room on June 19 2020, I believe that, taking account of all the circumstances, I did not breach the code."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know

Earlier in his letter, Mr Johnson reiterated there was "no intent to break the regulations", adding: "I did not consider that the circumstances in which I received a fixed penalty notice were contrary to the regulations.

"I have accepted the outcome and paid it in compliance with legal requirements. Paying a fixed penalty notice is not a criminal conviction."

He said the same explanation applies to Rishi Sunak.

Lord Geidt, who is the PM's independent adviser on ministers’ interests told Mr Johnson he would have been forced to resign if the public explanation was not offered.

"If a prime minister's judgement is that there is nothing to investigate or no case to answer, he would be bound to reject any such advice, thus forcing the resignation of the Independent Adviser," he said.

Mr Johnson is set to be investigated by Parliament's Privileges Committee for separate allegations about breaking the code.

The Committee will assess whether he had broken the code by being dishonest to MPs when insisting coronavirus rules were followed in government throughout the pandemic.

The code says a resignation should follow if any minister is found to have knowingly misled Parliament.

Critics of Mr Johnson believe over 100 police fines issued to dozens of government staff - including the prime minister and chancellor - prove he lied to MPs.

But the PM has defended himself, saying he was always honest to the best of his knowledge as he was unaware of any rule breaking at the times the offences were committed.

It comes amid growing belief at Westminster that it is only a matter of time before the 54 letters from Conservative MPs needed to trigger a confidence vote are reached.

Boris Johnson and former business secretary Dame Andrea Leadsom Credit: PA

Former cabinet minister Dame Andrea Leadsom became the latest senior figure to publicly criticise Mr Johnson, saying Ms Gray’s report had exposed “unacceptable failings of leadership that cannot be tolerated and are the responsibility of the prime minister”.

Since the end of last week a steady stream of MPs – having had a chance to study Ms Gray’s findings in detail and consult with their constituents – have come forward calling on Mr Johnson to quit.

Under party rules, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee is required to call a vote of confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership if 54 Tory MPs – 15% of the parliamentary party – submit a letter calling for one.

So far, more than 25 MPs have publicly called on the prime minister to stand down – although not all of them have said whether they have written to Sir Graham.