Covid lockdown breaches would have been ‘obvious’ to Boris Johnson, Partygate inquiry report says

Evidence strongly suggests that breaches of coronavirus rules would have been “obvious” to Boris Johnson at the time he was at the gatherings, the inquiry into the partygate scandal has said.

It came as it was announced that he will give evidence to the committe on the inquiry into whether he lied to Parliament in the week beginning March 20.

In a report released by the Commons Privileges Committee today, the committee said: “The evidence strongly suggests that breaches of guidance would have been obvious to Mr Johnson at the time he was at the gatherings.”

The report also said there was evidence “that those who were advising Mr Johnson about what to say to the press and in the House were themselves struggling to contend that some gatherings were within the rules”.

It added: “The Director of Communications stated in a WhatsApp of 25 January 2022 to a No. 10 official in relation to the gathering of 19 June 2020 that ‘Haven’t heard any explanation of how it’s in the rules’.

“In a separate WhatsApp exchange with a No. 10 official of 25 January 2022 in relation to the gathering of 19 June 2020, the Director of Communications stated: ‘I’m struggling to come up with a way this one is in the rules in my head’, and in response to a suggestion that they describe the event as ‘reasonably necessary for work purposes’, ‘not sure that one works does it. Also blows another great gaping hole in the PM’s account doesn’t it?’”

Mr Johnson said the investigation into whether he lied to MPs with his partygate denials shows he has “not committed any contempt of Parliament”.

In a statement, the former prime minister said: “I am grateful to the committee for their work over the last ten months. I believe that their labours have helped establish the obvious truth.

“It is clear from this report that I have not committed any contempt of Parliament. It is also clear that what I have been saying about this matter from the beginning has been vindicated.

“That is because there is no evidence in the report that I knowingly or recklessly misled parliament, or that I failed to update parliament in a timely manner.

“Nor is there any evidence in the report that I was aware that any events taking place in No 10 or the Cabinet Office were in breach of the rules or the guidance.”

He added: “So it is surreal to discover that the Committee proposes to rely on evidence culled and orchestrated by Sue Gray, who has just been appointed Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Labour Party.

“This is particularly concerning given that the Committee says it is proposing to rely on ‘the findings in the Second Permanent Secretary’s report’ as ‘relevant facts which the Committee will take into account.”

Mr will give oral evidence to the Privileges Committee in the week beginning March 20, the committee said.

The exact date and time of the session, which will be held in public and broadcast live, are yet to be announced.

Mr Johnson has also been invited to provide written evidence to the committee in advance of the session in the week of March 20.

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