Probe Into Whether Boris Johnson Misled Parliament 'Fundamentally Flawed', Says Top QC

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Thames Valley Police, at Milton Keynes Police Station in Buckinghamshire. Picture date: Wednesday August 31, 2022. (Photo: Andrew Boyers via PA Wire/PA Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Thames Valley Police, at Milton Keynes Police Station in Buckinghamshire. Picture date: Wednesday August 31, 2022. (Photo: Andrew Boyers via PA Wire/PA Images)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Thames Valley Police, at Milton Keynes Police Station in Buckinghamshire. Picture date: Wednesday August 31, 2022. (Photo: Andrew Boyers via PA Wire/PA Images)

A Commons probe into whether Boris Johnson misled parliament over what he knew about partygate is “fundamentally flawed”, according to a top QC.

Lord Pannick was asked to give his legal opinion on the privileges committee inquiry by the Cabinet Office.

He said it was “unfair” that the cross-party committee was not taking account of whether Johnson intended to mislead MPs about Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street.

The crossbench peer’s 22-page findings, published today, said: “The committee has failed to understand that to prove contempt against Mr Johnson, it is necessary to establish that he intended to mislead the House.”

It concludes by saying: “The approach taken by the committee is fundamentally flawed in a number of important respects.”

MPs voted unanimously in April for the privileges committee to carry out its inquiry.

If he is found guilty, the outgoing prime minister could be suspended and ultimately kicked out of parliament, effectively ending his political career in disgrace.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who has recused himself as the privileges committee’s chair due to his previous criticism of Johnson, accused the PM of trying to “bully” the committee.

He tweeted: “You would have thought that Boris Johnson would want to clear his name in front of the privileges committee instead of trying to intimidate it.

“There is no danger of ministers being cowed by this inquiry – although of course it would be good if they were careful that what they say to parliament is true and accurate – as the House will always recognise an honest mistake quickly corrected…

“It’s time this disgraceful bullying stopped. Let’s hear and see the evidence. If Johnson has a good case to make, he’ll be vindicated. If not, he should take his punishment.”

Hitting out at Lord Pannick’s findings, Bryant went on: “Lord Pannick’s bizarre ‘opinion’ has no formal status and is wrong on several counts.

“Firstly, he fails to mention that the motion that charged the committee makes no mention of ‘intentionally misleading’.

“Nor does he acknowledge that many aspect of standards processes have changed over the years, including the introduction of the right of ministers to correct the record through a Written Ministerial Statement – which was used 200 times last year.”

But culture secretary Nadine Dorries, a staunch supporter of Johnson, told the Daily Mail: “This expert legal opinion shows that the inquiry was a biased, Kafkaesque witch-hunt - it should now be halted before it does any more damage.

“As a minister, you simply cannot verify every single piece of trusted advice and information you are given in good faith by well-intentioned and conscientious senior officials.

“What this potentially does is set a trap for every minister in the future, and it’s a chilling prospect for the future of our democracy.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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