Boris Johnson could face by-election if found to have lied to Parliament

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Aden-Jay Wood

By Aden-Jay Wood

Published: 21/07/2022

- 21:09

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 10:48

The Privileges Committee is examining whether the PM committed a contempt of Parliament by misleading MPs over Partygate

Boris Johnson could be forced to face a by-election if he is found to have lied to Parliament and is handed a suspension for 10 or more sitting days.

The Privileges Committee is examining whether the Prime Minister committed a contempt of Parliament by misleading MPs over the Partygate scandal.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle confirmed that the committee’s findings would fall within the remit of the Recall of MPs Act, following advice from a leading lawyer.

That would mean that a suspension of 10 or more sitting days, or 14 calendar days, would trigger a recall petition.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of talks with Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern at Downing Street, London. Picture date: Friday July 1, 2022.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
John Sibley

If at least 10 percent of voters in Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat demand a by-election he would lose his place as an MP, but would be eligible to stand again in the contest.

The cross-party committee also published advice from the Clerk of the Journals, Eve Samson, the Commons’ expert on parliamentary privilege, which suggested that whether or not Mr Johnson intended to mislead MPs was not a factor that needed to be considered.

But she said that intent could be seen as an “aggravating factor” when considering penalties.

In a report setting out how it will handle the case, the Privileges Committee said: “We agree with the reasoning about the nature of a contempt in that paper, namely that the focus of the House’s jurisdiction is on whether or not an action or omission obstructs or impedes or has a tendency to obstruct or impede the functioning of the House, with the consequence that, looking at contempt in broad terms, intention is not necessary for a contempt to be committed.”

Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle
Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle
Yui Mok

The case will be considered “on the balance of probabilities” – a lower standard than the criminal test of “beyond reasonable doubt”.

The Privileges Committee also insisted its inquiry will go ahead despite Mr Johnson’s resignation as Tory leader and his expected departure from No.10 in September.

“Since the House agreed the referral there have been political developments concerning the future role of the Rt Hon Boris Johnson, and some have suggested that the committee’s inquiry is no longer necessary,” the MPs said.

“Our inquiry, however, is into the question of whether the House was misled, and political developments are of no relevance to that.”

The MPs intend to call Mr Johnson to give oral evidence in public in the autumn, under oath.

The committee has already said that whistleblowers will be able to give evidence about the Prime Minister anonymously.

Mr Johnson has also been ordered to hand over a cache of documents to the MPs investigating whether he lied to Parliament with his partygate denials.

The committee wrote to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case demanding details relevant to its inquiry.

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