Boris Johnson lied to Parliament about the parties?

Boris Johnson was asked by Parliament on 19 April: "Did your deliberate mislead this House at the dispatchbox?" His answer was simple: "No.

Boris Johnson lied to Parliament about the parties?

Boris Johnson was asked by Parliament on 19 April: "Did your deliberate mislead this House at the dispatchbox?" His answer was simple: "No."

After being fined by his Metropolitan Police for violating Covid rules, he is now under investigation by a Commons Committee to see if he intentionally misled MPs about Downing Street parties.

This is crucial because the Ministerial Code (the rule book for ministers in government) states: "Ministers who knowingly lie to Parliament will be expected offer their resignation."

"Knowingly" can refer to deliberately misleading MPs. This can be hard to prove.

These are the key moments when the prime minister spoke in Parliament about Downing Street gatherings and parties.

Date of quotation: 8/12/2021

Context: Labour MP Catherine West asked "Will the prime Minister tell the House if there was a party at Downing Street on the 13th November [2020]?"

Johnson's words: "No, but I am certain that whatever happened the guidance was followed. The rules were followed at every time."

Let's get to the bottom of his answer.

Party

The first is an apparent denial of the existence of a party on 13/11/2020.

Ms West asked about "party", and there was no precise definition.

Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, does not use this word in her report on 13 November. Her report instead mentions:

Photos of the former show the prime minister raising glasses in front of several people, and also a table containing a variety of wine bottles as well as take-out food.

Rules

Johnson stated that the rules are to be followed at all times.

We now know that they weren't. A Metropolitan Police investigation into Downing Street gatherings led to a total 126 fines being imposed on 83 people for violating Covid rules.

We know that the Met issued fines on the date the prime minister was asked about - in violation of the rules regarding indoor gatherings of more than two people.

Although the Met has not provided details, the BBC was told by the Met that at least one person was involved in the leaving drinks at which Mr Johnson was photographed. The Met has not provided any explanations as to why the prime minister didn't receive a fine.

Guidance

Johnson stated that the guidance was always followed.

According to the guidance on working in offices, only "absolutely necessary" participants should attend meetings and that they should keep their social distance.

On 23 June, the prime minister stated to Parliament that it was possible to keep 2m away. We will recommend that people keep a distance of at least 1m from anyone who isn't able to do so. This guidance was still in effect as of 13 November.

That guidance document did not state that you could leave drinks at work or engage in socializing.

The Sue Gray report photographs clearly show Johnson drinking in front staff members, who are very close together and have bottles of wine at a table.

On 13 November, the other gathering was held in Mr Johnson's apartment.

According to the report, there was a meeting on that night "to discuss" the handling of Dominic Cummings and Mr Cain's departures.

Along with alcohol and food, five special advisors were present. At 20:00, Mr Johnson joined the discussion.

Many newspapers previously reported that Abba songs were being played in No 10's flat on a particular evening.

Date of quotation: 25 May 2022

Context: Parliament's reaction to the Sue Gray report's final publication.

Johnson stated: "I am happy that I can now say - when I said – I came to the house and stated in all sincerity the rules and guidance had always been followed - that was what I believed to have been true." This was evident when I attended staff goodbye parties.

According to the Sue Gray report, we know that the prime minister was present at the leaving of drinks:

Johnson claims that both guidance and rules were followed when he was at these gatherings.

We know that the police issued fines to two of them (13 and 14 November), but it is not clear if these rule violations occurred while he was there.

The photos from the Lee Cain event show people closer to 1 m than the guidance. Mr Johnson was looking on, however, so the photos do not appear to be showing the guidance.

Date of quotation: 8/12/2021

Context: After a video was released, opening remarks were made to Parliament. It showed members of his staff laughing about the possibility of a Christmas party at Downing Street.

Johnson stated: "I was repeatedly assured that since these allegations surfaced that there was no party, and that no Covid rules had been broken."

They were referring to the party on 18 December 2020 when 20 to 45 people gathered for a Wine & Cheese Evening and Secret Santa.

The Sue Gray report does not mention Boris Johnson's presence or being notified.

On 8 December 2021 Mr Johnson claimed that he received assurances, something we don't know.

He could claim that he did not know he had misled the House if he was told otherwise.

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