In a landmark report released today, the Committee of Privileges has concluded that the conduct of the Rt Hon Boris Johnson, Member of Parliament for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, amounted to a deliberate and serious contempt of the House of Commons. The report, arising from a matter referred to the committee on 21st April 2022, paints a disturbing picture of the former Prime Minister’s actions, highlighting his deliberate misrepresentation of facts.
The significance of this inquiry cannot be overstated, as it strikes at the very core of our democratic principles. Trust lies at the heart of our system, with Members of Parliament relying on the truthfulness of government officials to effectively scrutinise legislation and hold the Executive accountable. When that trust is betrayed, the functioning of our democracy is undermined, eroding public confidence in our elected representatives.
The Committee’s investigation, conducted with utmost diligence and adherence to parliamentary law and customs, examined a wide range of evidence, including testimonies from Mr Johnson and other witnesses. Every effort was made to ensure fairness, transparency, and the provision of all relevant information to Mr Johnson. However, the findings leave no doubt about his deliberate and repeated attempts to mislead the House.
Central to the report’s conclusions is the established fact that Mr Johnson possessed knowledge of the Covid Rules and Guidance and was well aware of rule breaches occurring within the confines of No. 10. The Committee unequivocally found that he misled the House by falsely asserting that the Rules and Guidance were strictly adhered to during gatherings. Moreover, he intentionally concealed his personal knowledge of rule violations and presented inaccurate representations of the assurances he received regarding compliance with Covid restrictions.
The report highlights Mr Johnson’s disingenuous attempts to manipulate the narrative, reinterpreting his statements to obfuscate their true meaning. By advancing unsustainable interpretations of the Rules and Guidance, he sought to justify the lack of social distancing at gatherings and even cited legally impermissible reasons to rationalise such behaviour.
Importantly, the Committee paid careful attention to the quality and reliability of the evidence provided. Witness statements submitted with signed statements of truth, oral testimonies given under oath, and the examination of government documents, including emails, WhatsApp messages, and photographs, formed the basis of their conclusions. In an effort to ensure accuracy, the Committee even conducted a visit to No. 10 to verify the locations of the gatherings mentioned by Mr Johnson.
The report also sheds light on Mr Johnson’s culpability in deliberately misleading the House. His repeated denials of factual evidence, refusal to acknowledge social distancing violations, and frequent dismissal of clear indications of misconduct demonstrate a concerning pattern of willful ignorance. Furthermore, the report highlights Mr Johnson’s attempts to undermine the parliamentary process itself, exemplified by his breach of confidentiality and public statement criticising the inquiry before its conclusion—an action deemed a grave contempt in its own right.
In light of the Committee’s findings, it recommends that Mr Johnson be suspended from the service of the House for 90 days, invoking the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015. Additionally, the report suggests revoking his entitlement to a former Member’s pass, recognising the severity of his repeated contempts and his involvement in a campaign of abuse and attempted intimidation directed at the Committee.
Ultimately, the decision on whether to adopt the Committee’s recommendations rests with the House of Commons as a whole. This comprehensive report serves as a stark reminder that no individual, regardless of their position or influence, is above the law. Upholding trust, honesty, and integrity within our democratic institutions is paramount for the well-being and faith of our nation’s citizens. The House must now deliberate on the appropriate course of action to address Mr Johnson’s deliberate misconduct and his flagrant disregard for the principles that underpin our democracy.