Boris Johnson deliberately lied to MPs over partygate scandal, damning report finds

Responding to its publication on Thursday, Mr Johnson hit out at what he called a 'deranged conclusion', ITV News' Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana and UK Editor Paul Brand report

Words by ITV News Westminster Producer, Lucy McDaid

Boris Johnson committed "repeated" and "serious" contempts of Parliament by deliberately misleading MPs with his denials over the partygate scandal, a damning report has found.

The 30,000-word report published by MPs on the House of Commons privileges committee found the former prime minister's behaviour warranted a 90-day suspension from Parliament - one he now avoids after his dramatic resignation on Friday.

Responding to its publication on Thursday, Mr Johnson hit out at what he called a "deranged conclusion", while Labour's Deputy Leader Angela Rayner called him a "pound shop Trump" for the way he "tries to discredit anybody who criticises his actions".

MPs will vote on the report's findings in the House of Commons on Monday - the same day as Boris Johnson's birthday. It also marks three years since a gathering in Number 10 that led to both Mr Johnson and Rishi Sunak receiving fines for breaking Covid rules.

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The report's key findings

  • Boris Johnson was disingenuous and misled MPs several times with his denials over pandemic gatherings at Number 10 Downing Street

  • Mr Johnson committed "repeated" contempts of Parliament, made "all the more serious" because they were carried out by the "most senior member of the government"

  • The recommended sanction would have been a 90-day suspension from Parliament, now unable to be imposed after Mr Johnson's resignation on Friday

  • The MPs recommended that Mr Johnson should not be given a former member's pass, which would ban access to the parliamentary estate in Westminster

  • The committee found Mr Johnson committed further contempts by undermining the democratic processes of the Commons and being "complicit in the campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation of the committee."

Boris Johnson greets reporters while out for a run on Thursday morning

Mr Johnson's immediate resignation on Friday, made after receiving the committee's scathing verdict, makes him immune to the recommended 90-day parliamentary suspension.

However, the committee has also recommended that the former prime minister should not receive a pass that gives former MPs access to Parliament.

The Liberal Democrats have called for Mr Johnson to be stripped of the £115,000 annual allowance given to former prime ministers to run their offices, but Rishi Sunak's spokesperson said on Thursday he is "not aware of any plans to do that".

The Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ed Davey, described Mr Johnson as "a liar and a law-breaker" who "treated the public with utter disdain". Meanwhile, Labour's Deputy Leader Angela Rayner described Mr Johnson as a "lawbreaker" and "a liar".

The five ways the privileges committee found Boris Johnson misled MPs

  • Claiming Covid rules and guidance were followed at all times in Number 10 on four separate occasions

  • Failing to tell the House "about his own knowledge of the gatherings where the rules or guidance had been broken"

  • Saying he relied on "repeated reassurances" that rules had not been broken

  • Insisting on waiting for Sue Gray's report to be published before he could answer questions in the House, when he had "personal knowledge which he did not reveal"

  • Claiming that rules and guidance had been followed while he was present at gatherings in Number 10 when he "purported to correct the record" in May 2022

The Partygate: The Inside Story podcast brings you fresh revelations and our whistleblowers in their own words in the definitive behind-closed-doors story of how ITV News uncovered one of the biggest scandals of our era...

A number of MPs who back the former prime minister have expressed their anger at what the report found. Conservative MP, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, accused the Privileges Committee of "deliberately trying to do damage to Boris Johnson”.

The former cabinet minister, who was knighted in Mr Johnson’s resignation honours, told ITV News that it will come as "no surprise" to him if he decides to run again as an MP.

When asked if Rishi Sunak should stop him, Sir Jacob said: "The prime minister is a sensible man and recognises what a great electoral asset Boris Johnson is".

Brendan Clarke-Smith, MP for Bassetlaw, said: "I am appalled at what I have read and the spiteful, vindictive and overreaching conclusions of the report.

"I won’t be supporting the recommendations and will be speaking against them both publicly and in the House on Monday. I’m backing fairness and justice - not kangaroo courts."

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But a spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, a group made up of more than 6,000 people personally affected by the virus, said: "This is another grim reminder that whilst families like mine were saying goodbye to our loved ones over Zoom, the same prime minister that failed us so badly in the first place was breaking his own rules so he could have a party and a laugh."

David Garfinkel continued: "Johnson has shown no remorse. Instead he lied to our faces when he told us that he’d done ‘all he could’ to protect our loved ones.

“He lied again when he said the rules hadn’t been broken in Number 10, and he’s lied ever since when he’s denied it again and again.

“It’s an utter tragedy that Johnson was in charge when the pandemic struck and he should never be allowed to stand for any form of public office again.

“His fall from grace must serve as a lesson to other politicians to act with honesty and to serve the public as a whole – that is the only positive that can come from this.”

Boris Johnson has criticised members of the Privileges Committee, including its chairwoman, Harriet Harman. Credit: PA

The publication of the report comes just two days after the Covid-19 Inquiry officially started hearing evidence in public, with families saying they "lost everything" during the pandemic.

Lawyers have also accused the government of not being prepared.

MPs will now debate the report and face a free vote on its findings. This means members will be allowed to vote according to their own views, and not their party's.

If Mr Johnson hadn't already resigned, a vote could have triggered a by-election in his former Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.

The date of the by-election, triggered by Mr Johnson's resignation, has been confirmed for Thursday, July 20. A by-election will take place on the same day in Selby and Ainsty, where Mr Johnson supporter Nigel Adams also stood down last week.

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