Cabinet Minister 'Absolutely Convinced' Boris Johnson Did Not Mislead Parliament

Boris Johnson “did not knowingly mislead parliament” over Covid rule breaking in Downing Street, a cabinet minister has said.

The privileges committee has said there is “evidence” the former prime minister lied to parliament when he denied knowing about rule breaches.

In a report published on Friday, the MPs said it would have been “obvious” to Johnson that lockdown laws were being ignored.

But speaking to Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris offered a staunch defence of Johnson.

He said Johnson was “100%” a man of integrity, adding: “I do not believe for one second Boris knowingly misled parliament.

“I don’t think he will be found to have misled parliament,” he said. “In this country, you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty. I’m absolutely convinced Boris did not knowingly mislead parliament.”

In a separate interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, Heaton-Harris said his view was not the “government official position”.

Heaton-Harris served as Johnson’s chief whip between February 2022 and September 2022.

According to the written evidence in the committee’s interim report, Johnson remarked a mid-pandemic leaving party in No.10 was “probably the most unsocially distanced gathering in the UK right now”.

WhatsApp messages given to the inquiry show advisers “struggling” with how parties were within the rules, with one conceding an excuse “blows another great gaping hole in the PM’s account”.

The committee said: “The evidence strongly suggests that breaches of guidance would have been obvious to Mr Johnson at the time he was at the gatherings.

“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.”

Johnson is due to defend himself in front of the committee in person later this month.