Wednesday, May 4, 2022

PM to face Commons vote on whether committee should investigate if he misled Parliament

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MPs will vote on whether to refer the Prime Minister to the privileges committee

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who has been involved in ongoing discussions with the opposition parties about what censure motion would be brought against the Prime Minister in the wake of the Partygate fine, has given the green light for the motion to take place.

MPs have been allowed to table a motion for debate to decide whether Boris Johnson misled Parliament over assurances Covid rules were followed in Downing Street.

He said he had approved an application from Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer and other opposition MPs allowing them to table a motion for debate on Thursday, which will culminate with a vote.

The Prime Minister will be in India at that time, for a much-delayed official tour of the country.

The Speaker told MPs it is not for him to police the ministerial code or determine whether the Prime Minister has committed a contempt.

“My role is to decide whether there is an arguable case to be examined,” he said.

“Having considered the issue, having taken advice from the clerks of the House, I’ve decided that this is a matter that I should allow the precedence accorded to the issue of privilege.

“Therefore, [Sir Keir] may table a motion for debate on Thursday.”

It comes after opposition MPs had been deciding whether to take one of two actions, either a motion holding Mr Johnson in contempt of Parliament or a vote to trigger a standards probe.

They have chosen the second option, a vote on whether to refer the Prime Minister to the privileges committee, led by Labour’s Chris Bryant.

If passed, the committee would investigate whether he misled the House by repeatedly claiming that no Covid rules were broken in No 10.

Under the ministerial code, knowingly misleading parliament is an offense that should result in resignation.

This option was preferred as it will give MPs a chance to scrutinize Mr Johnson’s actions and ensure the Partygate scandal remains top of the political agenda.

The vote would also serve to force silent Tory MPs to publicly support Mr Johnson, which could then be used as ammunition by opposition MPs in the run up to the May local elections.

But the vote is unlikely to pass owing to the Conservative Party’s significant parliamentary majority.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey urged Conservative MPs to “do their patriotic duty” in Thursday’s vote.

The former cabinet minister said: “The country cannot afford a Prime Minister who breaks the law and lies about it, especially when families are facing a cost-of-living crisis.

“Johnson has taken the British people for fools for far too long, and it’s time for Conservative MPs to show where they stand.

“They must do their patriotic duty and kick Boris Johnson out of Downing Street once and for all.”

However, opposition MPs believe even a failed vote will benefit them in the local elections, as they can remind voters which MPs chose to stand by Mr Johnson. Tory abstentions would also cause the Government problems.

The action was taken after the Prime Minister, along with his wife Carrie Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, were last week issued with Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) by police investigating claims of Covid lockdown breaches at Downing Street.

Mr Johnson has apologised, for his part in attending his own birthday bash, held in June 2020 in the Cabinet room, and paid the fine despite telling the Commons previously that all Covid guidance was followed at the heart of Government.

He is expected to issue a further apology to MPs later this afternoon.

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