- “No precedent” for PM to deliberately mislead Parliament
- The group says there should be no automatic access to Parliament
- Johnson disputes the “rubbish” report
LONDON, June 15 (Reuters) – Boris Johnson deliberately misled the British Parliament in an unprecedented manner about parties breaking rules in his office during the Covid-19 lockdowns, a panel said in a damning ruling on Thursday, further tarnishing the former prime minister.
Almost a year ago, Johnson was talking about being prime minister in the 2030s. But the Privileges Committee, the main regulatory body for lawmakers, said on Thursday that he should be stripped of his automatic right of access to parliament.
The group also accused Johnson of being “complicit in the attempted abuse and intimidation” of them.
Johnson, who led the Conservatives to a landslide election victory in 2019, in typically combative fashion, dismissed the report as “a lie” and “an abomination” and accused committee members of vendetta against him.
The stance will do little to heal deep divisions within the Conservatives and will only pile pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as he tries to shore up Britain’s flagging economy.
The 100-plus page report details six events held in Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s offices and residence.
“We conclude that Mr Johnson committed grave contempt in deliberately misleading the House,” the panel said:
“The contempt committed by the Prime Minister, the most senior member of the Government, is extremely serious. There is no precedent for a Prime Minister being found to have deliberately misled the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament. ).”
It suggested that he should not be eligible for the ex-member pass, which most former prime ministers and lawmakers have automatic access to parliament. Parliament will consider the committee’s recommendation on Monday.
Asked about the report’s findings, Sunak’s spokesman said the prime minister had not yet read it, but said he believed the panel had conducted its inquiry properly and “it would not be right to criticize or criticize its work”.
The panel, made up of four Conservative and three opposition lawmakers, rejected Johnson’s argument that the meetings were within the rules and that his advisers supported his belief.
Instead, it said, Johnson was “deliberately obnoxious as he tried to avoid his statements in the House and to recast the clear impression he wanted to give.”
It said Johnson would have recommended a 90-day suspension from the Commons if he were still an MP.
Johnson resigned from parliament last week after seeing an advance copy of the report, calling the inquiry a “witch hunt”, which he criticized again after its release.
“I rightly believed these events were justified for work purposes. We are managing an epidemic,” he said in a statement.
He said the report was a “terrible day” for Members of Parliament (MPs) and democracy. “This decision means that no MP is immune from reprisals, or being ousted on trumped-up charges by a tiny minority who want to see him or her out of the Commons,” he said.
He accused the committee of using magic powers to make him see things he didn’t see in Downing Street, when he said he was obliged to thank departing staff or their work on COVID-19. The Committee did not accept his contention.
Labor said the report was “bad”.
“While Rishi Sunak is distracted by the ongoing Tory soap opera, people are crying out for leadership on issues that matter to them,” said Labour’s top committee member Thangam Debonaire.
A former Johnson aide said the statement would leave him with a “huge influence” on the Conservative Party, rather than ensuring his “semi-retirement”.
Johnson apologized for his behavior but repeatedly denied deliberately misleading Parliament, saying he had received advice from his aides that his office was following the rules.
But the so-called Participant spelled the beginning of the end of his tenure as prime minister. A revolt in the Conservative Party last year forced him to announce his resignation in July, when ministers resigned en masse. He stepped down in September.
He resigned from parliament last week, ending his time as a so-called backbench lawmaker who continues to wield significant influence within the Conservatives, which has at times undermined Sunak’s authority.
This week, the former prime minister’s resignation honors list has also made waves.
Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Alistair Smout, Andrew MacAskill, Kylie MacLellan, Muwija M and William James; Editing by Kate Holden, Frank Jack Daniel and Angus MacSwan
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William leads the UK Breaking News team, ensuring Reuters reports on key developments in politics, economics and public news. He previously spent almost a decade as a UK political correspondent in Westminster and before that covered financial markets during the eurozone debt crisis.