Exclusive: Harriet Harman set to lead inquiry into claims Boris Johnson misled Parliament

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Boris Johnson and Harriet Harman Mp at Spectator Magazine Summer Party in 2015 - Alan Davidson/ Shutterstock
Boris Johnson and Harriet Harman Mp at Spectator Magazine Summer Party in 2015 - Alan Davidson/ Shutterstock

A former acting leader of the Labour Party is set to become the chairman of the committee that will decide if Boris Johnson intentionally misled Parliament over partygate.

Harriet Harman, who is also the longest-serving female MP, is the most likely candidate to lead an inquiry by Parliament’s Privileges Committee that could suspend the Prime Minister from the Commons.

The Telegraph understands her name has been provisionally agreed by Labour as a replacement for Chris Bryant, who has recused himself from the investigation into Mr Johnson because he has been too outspoken about partygate already.

Ms Harman would then be elected by the MPs on the committee as its new chairman.

The investigation could begin within weeks and will decide whether Mr Johnson knowingly misled Parliament when he told MPs that “all guidance was followed in No 10” during the pandemic.

Two investigations by the Metropolitan Police and Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, have concluded that the guidance was not followed by many staff and that parties in Downing Street should not have taken place.

Mr Johnson himself has been issued with a fixed penalty notice after he attended a gathering for his birthday in the Cabinet Room in June 2020.

Ms Harman led the Labour Party for four months in 2015 after the resignation of Ed Miliband and before the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader and served in several government posts between 1997 and 2010.

She has announced that she plans to step down as an MP at the next general election.

Ms Harman, the MP for Camberwell and Peckham, is understood to be happy to be placed on the Privileges Committee, while Conservatives on the panel have provisionally agreed that she would be elected chairman.

The MPs could recommend sanctions against Mr Johnson if it decides he knowingly misled the Commons, including by ordering him to be temporarily suspended from Parliament or to apologise. Any sanctions recommended are subject to a vote of all MPs.

The committee also has the power to request information from public bodies to aid its investigation, including more than 300 photographs collected by Ms Gray during her inquiry that were not published in her report.

The Prime Minister can be seen raising a glass with aides in Downing Street in one of the photos released in the report - Microsoft Office User
The Prime Minister can be seen raising a glass with aides in Downing Street in one of the photos released in the report - Microsoft Office User

It could also summon Ms Gray to give evidence, request a statement from Mr Johnson, or question Downing Street security staff and cleaners about what happened in No 10 during the pandemic.

The Telegraph also understands that all three members of the committee who currently serve as government parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs) plan to resign in order to continue their involvement in the investigation.

Alberto Costa, Laura Farris and Andy Carter will continue to sit on the committee alongside Sir Bernard Jenkin, the Labour MP Yvonne Fovargue and Allan Dorans for the SNP.

Clerks in the House of Commons are currently debating whether Mr Johnson could be forced to fight a by-election if he is suspended for more than ten days.

A piece of legislation passed in 2015 says MPs can face a recall petition from their constituents if they are suspended by the Standards Committee, which is a separate but similar Commons committee staffed by the same MPs and several lay members.

But some believe the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act could also apply to the Privileges Committee.

In practice, Mr Johnson is more likely to resign or call a general election if he faces the prospect of a by-election in his West London constituency.

The Labour Party declined to comment.

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