Tory MPs Likely To Be Given Free Vote On Boris Johnson Partygate Punishment, Says Minister

Oliver Dowden says the former prime minister will offer a "robust" defence against allegations he misled parliament.
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Tory MPs are likely to be given a free vote on any punishment for Boris Johnson if he is found to have misled parliament, a cabinet office minister has confirmed.

The former prime minister will defend himself against the allegations levelled at him by the privileges committee on Wednesday.

According to the MPs, there is evidence Johnson misled the Commons on multiple occasions over whether lockdown rules were broken on his watch.

If found guilty, the committee can recommend Johnson be suspended or expelled from parliament.

For any sanction to be imposed, a vote would be held in the Commons.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Oliver Dowden, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said he expected Johnson to mount a “robust” defence .

But indicated the government would not order Tory MPs how to vote if it came to it.

Asked whether there would be a free vote, Dowden said it was “the standard practice” on House matters.

“I’m not sure final decisions have been made but that would be the precedent that we would expect to follow,” he said.

Johnson is expected to submit a written dossier of evidence to the privileges committee as he attempts to clear his name.

In an interim report earlier this month, the committee said the evidence strongly suggests breaches of coronavirus rules in No.10 should have been “obvious” to Johnson.

They are examining evidence around at least four occasions when he may have deliberately misled MPs with his assurances to the Commons that rules were followed.

The Sunday Times reported Johnson will point to a series of previously undisclosed WhatsApp messages from senior civil servants and members of his No.10 team showing that he had relied upon their advice when he made his statements to parliament.

He will also publish messages which show that other senior figures in Downing Street believed the gatherings were covered by the “workplace exemption” in the lockdown rules.

The committee’s investigation is being chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman, although the seven-strong panel has a Tory majority.


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