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No 10 defends partygate probe MPs after Johnson criticises ‘kangaroo court’

The Privileges Committee’s report on whether the former prime minister lied to Parliament with his partygate assurances could be released within days.

Downing Street has defended the parliamentary committee investigating whether Boris Johnson misled MPs over partygate, after the panel became the subject of attacks by the former prime minister and his allies.

The Privileges Committee is meeting on Monday to finalise its report into Mr Johnson, who dismissed the inquiry as a “witch hunt” as he dramatically announced his resignation from the Commons.

The probe is thought to have ruled that Mr Johnson lied to Parliament when he told MPs that Covid rules were followed in Downing Street despite boozy parties taking place at the time of social distancing restrictions.

Reports suggest the panel was set to recommend at least a 10-day suspension, reaching the threshold for a by-election to be potentially triggered in Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat.

Mr Johnson accused the committee of “bias” and likened it to a “kangaroo court” in a scathing 1,000-word exit statement on Friday after receiving a draft of the report.

But Rishi Sunak’s spokesman expressed confidence in the MPs’ work, saying they were doing “exactly what Parliament has asked them to do”.

“This is a properly set-up committee that the House has voted to carry out their work,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters on Monday.

“The Government will in no way traduce or criticise the work of the committee who are doing exactly what Parliament has asked them to do.”

Harriet Harman comment
Harriet Harman was to chair Monday’s meeting to discuss publishing the partygate report (Niall Carson/PA)

The Privileges Committee will discuss the publication of its report during its meeting in Monday.

It is expected that the seven-person committee, which is chaired by veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman but has a Conservative majority, could release its findings in a matter of days.

In response to Mr Johnson’s attack, a committee spokesperson said he had “impugned the integrity of the House”.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove also defended the integrity of the committee but refused to rebuke party colleagues during an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“It is not my job or role to censor or police anyone’s views in a matter of public debate,” he said.

“I have respect for the work that they have done and I think that we need to respect again the integrity of the process and wait until the report is published before then debating its conclusions and the consequences.

“The second thing that I want to say is that I do deprecate the fact that they are now in a position where, as reported, they have to seek or have been granted additional security.”

Mr Sunak’s spokesman said reported threats against committee members were “completely unacceptable”.

He said: “I’ve only seen the reporting around that. I don’t know the facts. Clearly, any threats against any MPs are completely unacceptable.”

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