LONDON (Reuters) – British former prime minister Boris Johnson has accepted he misled parliament over the answers he gave about parties held in government buildings during coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, but denied having done so “intentionally or recklessly”. Here are some of his main defence for why he believes he did not mislead parliament from his […]
Factbox-Boris Johnson’s defence over allegations he misled UK parliament
LONDON (Reuters) – British former prime minister Boris Johnson has accepted he misled parliament over the answers he gave about parties held in government buildings during coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, but denied having done so “intentionally or recklessly”.
Here are some of his main defence for why he believes he did not mislead parliament from his oral and written evidence he gave to a committee of lawmakers investigating him.
Johnson said he accepted that “perfect” social distancing was not always observed, but that Downing Street had followed the guidance, with mitigations in place where two-metre social distancing was not possible and proximity was sometimes reasonable necessary for work purposes.
“It was always the case that we understood that the confines of Number 10 were going to make it impossible the whole time to enforce a total social distancing, as it were with an electric force field around every individual,” he told the committee.
Johnson said that he had not been found by London’s Metropolitan Police to have broken the law on occasions where he stopped briefly to address staff when team members were leaving their jobs.
“But I will believe till the day I die, that it was my job to thank staff for what they had done, especially during a crisis like COVID which kept coming back, which seemed to have no end and when people’s morale did, I’m afraid begin to sink,” he told the committee.
“But never mind what I think, the more important point is that the police agreed. They did not find that my attendance at any of these farewell gatherings was against the rules. I obviously did not know at the time that any of these events later escalated beyond what was lawful after I left.”
LACK OF EVIDENCE
Johnson said there was no evidence that indicated he intentionally misled parliament.
“There is not a single document that indicates that I received any warning or advice that any event broke or may have broken the rules or guidance,” he said in written testimony.
“In fact, the evidence before the Committee demonstrates that those working at No. 10 (Downing Street) at the time shared my honest belief that the rules and guidance were being followed.”
COLLEAGUE OUT FOR REVENGE
In his submission, Johnson said allegations by his former top adviser, Dominic Cummings, that he misled the police could not be treated as “credible” given Cummings’ hostility towards him.
Cummings said last year Johnson “obviously lied” to police about what happened during a police investigation into the events. He left his job in 2020 after falling out with Johnson.
“It is no secret that Dominic Cummings bears an animus towards me, having publicly stated on multiple occasions that he wanted to do everything that he could to remove me ‘from power’,” Johnson said. “He cannot be treated as a credible witness.”
DRINKING WINE AT WORK WAS LEGITIMATE
Johnson said he believed his staff drinking wine at one event in Dec. 2020 was within the rules. He said officials gathering to drink alcohol was for “work purposes” and the event with food and presents was not a “party”.
“Drinking wine or exchanging gifts at work and whilst working did not, in my view, turn an otherwise lawful workplace gathering into an unlawful one,” Johnson said.
UNAWARE RULES WERE BROKEN
Johnson has said he was not warned that the events broke any rules.
“No one advised me after any of these events that they were against the rules or guidance, or, more importantly, that they had been allowed to go on in such a way as to breach the rules or guidance,” Johnson said.
The former prime minister has accepted that he misled parliament but claims he did so in “good faith”.
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Alistair Smout, Editing by Elizabeth Piper, Gareth Jones and Raissa Kasolowsky)
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