Boris Johnson has acknowledged he misled the House of Commons over coronavirus rule breaches, even as he hit out at the parliamentary committee looking at claims he did so deliberately.
In a 52-page written submission to the Commons privileges committee investigating the case, the former prime minister, who is fighting for his political life, accepted that he had made erroneous statements to parliament.
Referring to past comments in which he insisted parties at 10 Downing Street broke no rules, Johnson said he had made “honest but inadvertently misleading statements” that he had subsequently corrected.
“I was not trying to conceal these events because I believed that there was nothing to conceal or cover up,” he added.
The Metropolitan Police has fined Johnson and multiple other people for their part in the events.
The committee has maintained it should have been obvious to the Johnson that a series of parties at his official residence broke rules against socialising during the pandemic.
But in comments released by the committee a day before he appears in person before it, Johnson said such an argument was “fundamentally flawed” and accused the committee of going beyond its terms of reference.
“If someone had known or believed that the rules or guidance had been broken . . . you would expect that there would have been contemporaneous documents recording this,” he wrote. “There is absolutely nothing.”
He added that the committee had gone beyond its remit by referring not just to whether Downing Street staff had complied with Covid regulations, but also to looking at whether stricter guidance had been followed.
The committee, which is considering whether Johnson “intentionally or recklessly” misled parliament in a series of statements about lockdown rule-breaking, has the power to recommend sanctions, including suspension from the Commons.
That could trigger a by-election in Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency if enough constituents demand one.
The committee said Johnson’s evidence had been submitted late, included uncorrected errors and contained “no new documentary evidence”.
Johnson insisted he had relied on advice from officials that assured him the events were permitted.
“As prime minister, I am reliant on advice from officials,” Johnson wrote in his statement. “There is nothing reckless or unreasonable about that.”
Johnson has been receiving advice ahead of Wednesday’s session from Lord David Pannick KC, one of the UK’s most eminent barristers.
Source: Financial Times