MPs to vote on inquiry into how Boris Johnson misled parliament about No 10 parties

MPs to vote on inquiry into how Boris Johnson misled parliament about No 10 parties
The ministerial code requires any minister who deliberately misleads parliament to resign

MPs will vote on whether to hold an inquiry into how Boris Johnson misled parliament about the lockdown-busting parties in No 10.

The Commons Speaker announced he has agreed to the debate and vote – on Thursday – ahead of the prime minister making a statement about the fine he received for breaking the law.

The privileges committee would then investigate whether Mr Johnson deliberately misled parliament when he wrongly claimed no Covid rules were broken, which should require his resignation if proven.

Although Tory MPs will almost certainly defeat the attempt, it would embarrass them by forcing them to block the inquiry, opposition parties believe.

It is accepted that Mr Johnson made statements that were untrue when, last year, he repeatedly denied that any Covid laws were broken.

He is expected to argue that he was saying “what he believed to be the truth” at the time – despite attending at least one of the parties that breached his own rules.

But Keir Starmer, who requested the debate and vote, has rubbished the claim, saying: “The prime minister makes the laws, tells the country to obey the laws, then breaks them and then – in my view – lies to parliament about it.”

Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, told MPs it is not his job to “police the ministerial code”, which requires any minister who knowingly lies to parliament to resign from office.

“Secondly, it is not for me to determine whether or not the prime minister has committed a contempt. My role is to decide whether there is an arguable case to be examined,” Mr Hoyle said.

“Having taken advice from the clerks of the House,” he said, he had decided that the Labour leader “may table a motion for debate on Thursday”.

Labour quickly announced it would table a motion seeking an inquiry by the privileges committee, a source saying: “Any Conservative MP considering voting to block this investigation would be voting for a cover up.”

And Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “The British public have declared Boris Johnson a liar. Now it’s time for parliament to do the same.

“Johnson has taken the British people for fools for far too long, and it’s time for Conservative MPs to show where they stand. They must do their patriotic duty and kick him out of Downing Street once and for all.”

The government is expected to treat Thursday’s vote as equivalent to a confidence motion in Mr Johnson – raising the stakes for any Tory MP considering a rebellion.

The prime minister will escape having to defend his previous denials of wrongdoing in person, because he will be on a visit to India.

The privileges committee deals with matters relating to contempt of parliament, which includes the charge of having lied to MPs.

It is chaired by Labour’s Chris Bryant, but has a Conservative majority – even in the unlikely event that the Commons approves an inquiry.