MPs will decide on Thursday whether to launch an investigation into claims Boris Johnson misled Parliament over the partygate row.
– Why has a vote been called now?
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and other senior MPs requested the Commons vote after the Prime Minister was fined for attending his own lockdown-busting birthday party in the Cabinet Room of No 10 in June 2020.
They argue that Mr Johnson’s previous assertions that “the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times” in Downing Street and that “no Covid rules were broken” misled Parliament – although those remarks in the Commons were not specifically related to the gathering on his birthday.
– I thought the Government controlled the Commons timetable?
Ministers normally decide what is debated and when, but in this case Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle ruled that the issue should be given parliamentary time.
He said it was not up to him to decide whether there had been a contempt of Parliament, but “my role is to decide whether there is an arguable case to be examined”.
– So what happens now?
Sir Keir will table a motion for the debate and vote on Thursday. He is expected to call for the Prime Minister’s conduct to be examined by the Committee of Privileges, which considers issues relating to contempt of Parliament.
Mr Johnson will miss the vote as he will be on a visit to India.
– So will there be an investigation into whether the Prime Minister lied to MPs?
Unlikely. The Prime Minister has a working majority of 75 and it would take a massive revolt of Tory MPs to agree to refer the matter to the committee.
– But what about the ministerial code? Doesn’t that say the Prime Minister should quit if he misled Parliament?
The document states that “ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister”.
But the key word there is “knowingly” – Mr Johnson has said that “it did not occur to me” that his birthday party was in breach of the rules and he had been “repeatedly assured” by aides that no rules were broken at other events currently under investigation.
Sir Lindsay made clear that he has no role in policing the ministerial code – something which is in the remit of the Prime Minister’s adviser Lord Geidt, who will only investigate if Mr Johnson asks him to.
– So if there is little chance of toppling the Prime Minister, why are the opposition parties doing this?
By forcing Tory MPs to reject an investigation into whether the Prime Minister lied to Parliament the Opposition parties hope to gain a political weapon to use as voters head to the ballot boxes for local elections across the country in May.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “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.”
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