Boris Johnson did not mean to mislead parliament when he told MPs no rules had been broken in the Partygate scandal, Dominic Raab has claimed.
The deputy prime minister said Johnson acted in “good faith” when he assured Parliament that no rules had been broken.
In December, Johnson told the Commons: “I have been repeatedly assured that the rules were not broken. I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken.”
But that claim was blown out of the water by yesterday as the Metropolitan Police revealed that 20 fixed penalty notices were being issued in relation to alleged lockdown-busting parties in Westminster.
‘No intention to mislead’
Asked if that meant Johnson had mislead Parliament – a resigning matter – Raab told Times Radio: “No, I don’t think there was an intention to mislead. The prime minister in good faith updated Parliament on what he knows.
“Of course, precisely because there were questions around this, the Sue Gray inquiry was set up and precisely because it was right and proper to enable the Met to conduct the investigation that has taken place.
“Of course we accept that those things wouldn’t have happened if there weren’t legitimate questions that have been made.”
Raab admitted that the issuing of fines was “deeply regrettable”. Speaking to Sky News, he said: “I’m not going to excuse anything that happened and shouldn’t have done. We’ve been very clear about that. The punishments have already been meted out. Some of them – I accept that.
“But my experience, I’m just telling you honestly first hand, was the incredible pressure and hard work and dedication of the overwhelming majority of people working No10.
“I’m always quite careful whilst engaging and embracing the accountability that’s right to take place to say that it’s not right to tar all the civil servants that worked so hard during this pandemic.
“I don’t accept that sort of caricature is right. I saw a lot of people working incredibly long hours, under incredible pressure, doing their very best.”
The fines reveal that the Met Police believes Covid restrictions were broken. They are expected to be around £100 – and Downing Street has pledged to reveal if Boris Johnson himself has been fined.
A Scotland Yard spokesperson said on Tuesday: “We will today initially begin to refer 20 fixed penalty notices to be issued for breaches of Covid-19 regulations.”