Boris Johnson's Covid Fine Just Like Getting A Parking Ticket, Says Brandon Lewis

The Northern Ireland secretary insisted the PM had not knowingly lied to parliament when he said Covid rules were always followed in Downing Street.
Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis
Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis
Brian Lawless via PA Wire/PA Images

Boris Johnson’s fine for breaking Covid laws is no different to ministers receiving parking tickets, Brandon Lewis has suggested.

The Northern Ireland secretary made the comparison as the prime minister prepares to apologise to MPs for being handed a fixed penalty notice by police last week.

Johnson is expected to urge the country to focus on the government’s attempts to deal with the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis rather than the ongoing row over partgate.

The PM, his wife and chancellor Rishi Sunak were among those fined by the Metropolitan Police for attending a birthday party for Johnson in No. 10 in June, 2020.

However, more fines could be handed out over other alleged lockdown-busting gatherings attended by the prime minister.

Defending his boss on Sky News this morning, Lewis said the situation he found himself in was no different to other ministers - including Tony Blair - who had broken traffic laws.

He said: “I think we do see consistently, whether it is through parking fines or speeding fines, ministers of both parties over the years have been in that position.

“We’ve had prime ministers in the past who have received penalty notices, from what I can see, and also front bench ministers.

“I saw there was a parking notice that Tony Blair had once. We’ve seen frontbench Labour ministers and, let’s be frank, government ministers as well.”

He added: “You’ve asked me, can someone who sets the laws and the rules, can they also be someone who breaks the rules.

“That clearly has happened with a number of ministers over the years.”

Lewis also denied the PM was a “liar” for telling the Commons in December that Covid rules had been followed in Downing Street, insisting he had believed he was telling the truth at the time.

Under the ministerial code of conduct, ministers who knowingly mislead parliament are expected to resign.

Lewis said: “At every point he has been clear with what he believes to be the truth.

“What he also accepts is that the police have looked into this particular issue and taken a view that a fine should be issued – he accepts that, he has paid that fine, he has apologised for that.”

Asked whether Mr Johnson accepts that he broke the rules, Mr Lewis replied: “In the sense that he has paid a fine that the police have decided to issue because the rules were broken.

“But that doesn’t mean that anything he said to Parliament was inaccurate at the time. What he said to Parliament he believed to be true at the time.”

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: “The excuses of Conservative ministers are getting more pathetic by the day. There is a massive difference between getting a parking fine and Boris Johnson breaking his own lockdown rules.

“It is an insult to bereaved families and all those who made huge sacrifices while Johnson partied in Number 10. Conservative MPs need to discover their moral backbone and sack Johnson instead of defending the indefensible.”


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