LONDON: On Friday, a parliamentary committee in the United Kingdom reported that there is evidence to suggest that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson lied to Parliament on multiple occasions about his awareness of lockdown-breaking parties held in his Downing Street office.
Before Johnson testifies before the Committee of Privileges later this month, the panel shared with him a preliminary report that suggested Johnson may have misled the House of Commons on at least four occasions. The committee said its findings were based on interviews with witnesses, as well as emails, text messages, and photos taken by a Downing Street photographer.
Late in 2021, Johnson began receiving negative press because his company allegedly hosted “bring your own booze” office parties, birthday celebrations, and “wine time Fridays” in defiance of regulations meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These revelations sparked widespread outrage, especially since many people at the time were prevented from visiting sick or dying loved ones.
Seeking to calm the situation, Johnson assured lawmakers that no lockdown procedures had been violated and that all instructions had been followed. Johnson and other officials were eventually fined by police for disobeying the lockdown orders, and the resulting scandal helped lead to their removal from office.
“There is evidence that those who were advising Mr.Johnson about what to say to the press and in the House were themselves struggling to contend that some gatherings were within the rules,” the committee said.
Johnson has agreed to appear before the committee later this month, at which time he will be able to respond to the preliminary findings of the panel.
The committee has been tasked with determining whether Johnson intentionally misled lawmakers and whether or not his violations warrant contempt of Parliament sanctions.
Johnson is still a lawmaker despite his resignation as prime minister. Johnson could be subject to a recall vote if he is found to be in contempt of court.
On Friday, Johnson told reporters that the report does not prove that he intentionally lied to lawmakers.
I don’t think I’m guilty of contempt of court, and I certainly didn’t try to mislead the house. “I think this process will vindicate me,” he told the BBC.
On April 21, the House of Commons referred the issue to its privileges committee. Four members of Johnson’s Conservative Party sit on the committee, along with two from the main opposition Labour Party and one from the Scottish National Party.
Johnson has agreed to testify before the committee, but the report indicates his government did little to aid the investigation. The government provided documents on August 24 that were “so heavily redacted as to render them devoid of any evidentiary value,” the committee said, in response to the committee’s request for materials in the government’s possession.
After Johnson’s departure from office in November, the government finally sent the committee the original, uncensored documents.