PM Johnson urged to explain how lockdown party not a breach of ministerial code

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FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference in response to the publication of the Sue Gray report Into "Partygate\

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain's independent adviser on ministers' behaviour said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson must explain why he thought he had not broken the ministerial code after being fined over attending a party during the COVID-19 national lockdown.

It had previously been expected that ministers who breached the guidance would be dismissed, but the government last week redrafted some of the rules to reduce the potential sanctions for those who break the code.

Christopher Geidt, the independent adviser on ministers' interests, said there is a "legitimate question" about whether he broke the ethics rules when he was fined by the police over a birthday party in June 2020 when indoor socialising was banned.

Geidt said he had repeatedly told the prime minister to publicly explain why he thought incurring a fixed-penalty notice would not be in breach of the code of conduct for ministers, but said: "That advice has not been heeded."

Johnson responded in a letter saying said that Geidt had not directly raised with him the need for a statement on his compliance with the code and blamed a "failure of communications" between their two offices.

The prime minister said he had complied with the code's requirements by correcting statements to parliament denying that there had been parties at his residence. He said they had been delivered "in good faith" but turned out to be untrue.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskillEditing by Chris Reese and Nick Macfie)