LONDON, June 20 (PTI): British MPs have voted overwhelmingly to approve a damning House of Commons committee report that found former Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliberately misled Parliament about Covid lockdown law-breaching parties at Downing Street.
The 59-year-old, whose exit from 10 Downing Street last year had been hastened by the ‘partygate’ scandal, had repeatedly denied that lockdown rules were broken within government quarters when asked in the Commons.
Johnson has already resigned as Member of Parliament (MP) from West London after the findings of the Privileges Committee report were known to him. He will now lose the privilege of special access to Parliament accorded to former MPs.
Many of his colleagues and Opposition members gathered in the Commons on Monday to debate the report’s findings and a majority condemned the former prime minister’s actions.
Lawmakers approved the finding that Johnson was in contempt of Parliament by 354 votes to seven.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, along with several other Tory MPs, chose not to attend the debate or comment on the report’s findings, something several Opposition Labour Party MPs called out during the session that ran into hours.
“It’s a crying shame that the prime minister of this country cannot even express how he would vote if he were to turn up today. In my view, that is a dereliction of duty,” Labour Party’s Jess Phillips said.
Johnson’s staunch allies lined up to defend the former Conservative Party leader and attacked the cross-party Privileges Committee.
“For some reason, the Privileges Committee thinks it is in Communist China and we must kowtow,” Tory MP and former minister in the Johnson Cabinet, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said.
He insisted that it is “absolutely legitimate” to criticise the conduct and make-up of the Privileges Committee, which wrote the report, because “our politics is adversarial”. “Outside this chamber, freedom of speech is paramount, we are allowed to say what we like,” Rees-Mogg, who was given a knighthood in Johnson’s controversial resignation honours list, said.
However, several Tory members, including former Prime Minister Theresa May, were scathing in their criticism of Johnson. They said MPs must be seen to hold their own to account, to show the public there is “not one rule for them and another for us”.
Earlier, Leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt, speaking on behalf of the government, told the House that the government respects the important constitutional principles of the committee.
“The Privileges Committee exists to defend our rights and privileges in this place,” Mordaunt had said, confirming that she would be voting in favour of its report.
Johnson had hit out at the committee as a “kangaroo court” which was on a “witch-hunt” against him as he resigned earlier this month.
The report highlighted specific instances over the course of 2020 and 2021, during successive Covid lockdowns in the UK, when the House of Commons could have been misled by Johnson’s claims that “no rules or guidance had been broken”.