Boris Johnson's allies prepare Partygate battle over 'flawed' inquiry
3rd September 2022

Boris Johnson’s allies prepare to battle Partygate probe in the Commons as top QC calls the inquiry ‘unfair’ and ‘fundamentally flawed’

  •  Supporters are planning to urge new Government to table a motion on the probe
  •  Eminent QC Lord Pannick said inquiry was ‘unfair’ and ‘fundamentally flawed’
  •  Labour MP Harriet Harman, who leads Privileges Committee, vowed to press on

Boris Johnson’s supporters are gearing up for a parliamentary battle with the Privileges Committee over its inquiry into the Prime Minister. 

Tory MPs are planning to urge the new Government to table a motion to change the terms of reference of the probe into whether Mr Johnson misled MPs over Partygate. 

But veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman, who leads the Committee, vowed to press on with the inquiry unless the Government intervened. 

Boris Johnson’s supporters are gearing up for a parliamentary battle with the Privileges Committee over its Partygate inquiry into the Prime Minister, which is ‘fundamentally flawed’

The Committee is investigating whether the Prime Minister misled Parliament with his statements on lockdown gatherings. 

A group of senior Tory MPs are planning a series of parliamentary interventions when the House of Commons returns from its break tomorrow. 

Their actions could put pressure on whoever wins the leadership contest to table a motion to prevent the inquiry going ahead in its current form. 

It comes after eminent QC Lord Pannick produced bombshell legal advice which said that the inquiry was ‘unfair’ and ‘fundamentally flawed’. 

He said that the probe would be declared unlawful were it not protected from challenge in the courts. 

He also warned that it risked having a wider ‘chilling effect’ on Ministers if they could be punished for inadvertently making a mistake when addressing the Commons. 

Last night, former Tory Minister David Jones told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We will have to discuss with colleagues when Parliament returns, but one thing is absolutely certain: a very highly respected silk – David Pannick – has delivered a very adverse opinion which cannot be ignored. 

Eminent QC Lord Pannick has  said that the inquiry was ‘unfair’ and ‘fundamentally flawed’

‘We could table urgent questions, or a motion to review the original motion of the House. There are a number of ways. 

‘I would have thought that there would be considerable support for such a motion as it imperils every MP.’ 

Parliament would have to pass a new Government motion to change the terms of reference for the Privileges Committee. Liz Truss has said that she will vote against the inquiry – but has not indicated that she would table a motion against it should she become Prime Minister. 

Mr Jones added: ‘I would have hoped that the Government would reflect on what Pannick has said… We are talking about what seems to be a straightforward issue of natural justice.’ 

Another supporter said: ‘It gives the committee a way out if they’re clever. It’s already pretty well discredited.’ 

The committee will meet this week to study Lord Pannick’s analysis. Sir Bernard Jenkin, the most senior Tory on the group, said: ‘I am glad we now have a proper considered opinion to deal with. This is the way to proceed, instead of just smear and innuendo against the Committee and the established processes.’ 

However, Harriet Harman said: ‘It is not for the Committee to change the rules. If Government thinks the rules are wrong, it can move a motion in the Commons to change.’ 

Boris Johnson’s former chief of staff Lord Udny-Lister told Times Radio: ‘I think that it’s totally wrong to suggest that he deliberately misled the House, which he quite clearly didn’t do. 

‘He believed what had taken place was within the rules. He subsequently found out it wasn’t and he subsequently apologised.’ 

Asked whether the inquiry should go ahead, he said: ‘I don’t think there’s a need for it at all.’ 

Labour MP Harriet Harman, who leads the Privileges Committee, vowed to press on with the inquiry unless the Government intervened

Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government at King’s College London, said: ‘It is vital that this procedure be seen as 100 per cent fair. 

‘I take it that Harriet Harman has already implied that he’s guilty, and if so she should recuse herself from the inquiry. The procedure is deeply flawed and unfair… There is a great danger that this verdict will not be taken seriously if Boris Johnson is found guilty, that he will be seen as a martyr. 

‘It will damage the reputation of that Committee and the Commons. It will appear to be a witch-hunt.’ 

A Survation poll for The Mail on Sunday found that 47 per cent of Tory voters said the Partygate inquiry should be ended, while 44 per cent said that it should still go ahead. 

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