Politics

Partygate Newest: What Really Is The Commons Privileges Committee?

Boris Johnson is facing another investigation into the partygate scandal, despite his pleas for everyone to move on.

MPs are due to vote late on Thursday afternoon on a Labour-led plan that would see the Commons privileges committee open an inquiry into whether the prime minister misled parliament.

What is Johnson guilty of?

Police issued the prime minister with a fixed-penalty notice (FPN) for attending his own birthday party in the Cabinet Room of No.10 on June 2020.

He has accepted the police’s decision and paid the fine and admitted on Wednesday for the first time he had broken the law.

Johnson is also thought to have been at six of the 12 events under investigation by Scotland Yard, so could face more fines.

What did Johnson say?

Yet the PM had repeatedly previously flat out denied any rules had been broken.

On December 1, 2021, Johnson told the Commons: “All guidance was followed completely in No.10.”

Later that month he also told parliament he was “sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times”.

What’s the problem?

The ministerial code states that “ministers who knowingly mislead parliament will be expected to offer their resignation”.

What is Johnson’s defence?

But the key word there is “knowingly” – Johnson has said that “it did not occur to me” that his birthday party was in breach of the rules.

Asked directly in the Commons on Tuesday if he had “deliberately” misled the House, Johnson said: “No.”

What is the privileges committee?

The Commons privileges committee – made up of seven MPs – conducts investigations into the conduct of MPs.

It is chaired by Labor MP Chris Bryant but has a Conservative majority.

Bryant has offered to recuse himself if that would persuade more Tory backbenchers to vote for an investigation by the committee.

If it was asked to launch an inquiry, it would be able to call partygate witnesses to give evidence and demand documents and photos to be handed over.

After completing its inquiries a report would be produced with a determination of whether or not Johnson was in “contempt” of parliament for having song.

It can recommend punishments such as the suspension or expulsion of MPs from the Commons.

But any such move would have to be voted on by the whole House of Commons.

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