Boris Johnson: Extending legal assistance during the MPs' investigation

Johnson, Boris

During the MPs' Partygate investigation, a government contract to give Boris Johnson taxpayer-funded legal counsel has been renewed.

The probe, commissioned by the Commons last year, is set to examine whether the former prime minister misled Parliament over the scandal.

The most recent contract was set to expire on Tuesday but has since been extended through April 30.

Hearings for the investigation are expected to begin in the coming weeks.

The Commons Privileges Committee's investigation was started last April after opposition parties charged Mr. Johnson with misleading MPs about what he knew regarding events held in government buildings during Covid lockdowns.

Concerns have been raised regarding Mr. Johnson's support from the taxpayers during the investigation.

The government contends that the contract is appropriate because it relates to Mr. Johnson's actions while he was still a minister.

According to official records, the contract was initially valued at £129,700 and began last August, when Mr. Johnson was still the Prime Minister.

the contract's value increased by £92,300 to a total of $222,000 when it was extended in December until 28 February.

According to procurement records, the final two-month extension does not change the total amount.

The top civil servant at the Cabinet Office, the division that authorized the expenditure, has not ruled out the possibility that the total price will be higher.

Last month, he told MPs, "We hope that we will not need to spend more than that.

"We must defer to the committee's work because it will decide how the meeting will be conducted, how long it will last, and other things. ".

According to him, the contract "went through full scrutiny from all the relevant people, including commercial, legal, and propriety.".

Photo of Boris Johnson included in the Sue Gray report
Civil servant Sue Gray published pictures of Boris Johnson at events at No. 10 in a formal report.

Whether Mr. Johnson "contemptuously" misled MPs in his Commons statements about Partygate will be determined by the committee's investigation.

In September, a legal opinion created in accordance with the contract criticized the committee's strategy after it decided it wouldn't need to demonstrate that he purposefully misled MPs to establish that he committed this offense.

This interpretation of the rules was argued to be "fundamentally flawed" in the opinion, which Mr. Johnson posted on the government website four days before he left office.

Later, the committee responded with a paper of its own, defending the way in which it had conducted its investigation.

It also criticized the document's release, calling it "highly irregular" for government officials to release inquiry evidence before it was taken into consideration by MPs.

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden claimed in a letter to a different committee earlier this month that the document was made public because of the investigation's "exceptional circumstances.".

Mr. Johnson assured the Commons that pandemic protocols had been followed on a number of occasions after the Partygate scandal broke in late 2021.

However, a formal investigation later revealed that there had been widespread rule-breaking, and Mr. Johnson was one of 83 people who received fines from the police for attending illegal events.

He has acknowledged that his initial statements to MPs were mistaken, but he denies intentionally misleading Parliament.

People who believed he had been "knowingly covering up" lockdown parties, he claimed earlier this month, would be "out of their minds.".

Asserting that Mr. Johnson should "pick up the bill," Labour leader Sir Keir criticized the government for footing the bill for his legal counsel.

The contract has also been criticized by the Liberal Democrats, who have urged the government to void it. Their chief whip, Wendy Chamberlain, has called it "outrageous."

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