An investigation into whether Boris Johnson lied to parliament about the partygate scandal would have been deemed “illegitimate” by a court, a senior lawyer said.
In a published legal opinion commissioned by the government, Lord Pannick – a crossbench peer who sits in the House of Lords – described the Privileges Committee’s approach to its investigation into whether the Prime Minister deceived parliamentarians as “unfair” and “imperfect”.
Lord Pannick’s advice states: “We advise Mr. Johnson that the committee proposes to proceed with reference to substantive errors as to the ingredients of contempt and the level of proof required, and proposes the adoption of an unfair procedure.
“But by parliamentary privilege, a court hearing a request for judicial review filed by Mr. Johnson would declare the commission’s report unlawful.”
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His advice says that “the commission did not understand that in order to feel contempt for Mr. Johnson, it is necessary to establish that it intended to mislead the Chamber.”
The top lawyer also warned that “the threat of outrage proceedings for unintentional errors would have a serious chilling effect on all members.”
Publication of government-commissioned legal advice is a completely unusual move.
Labor MP Chris Bryant, who chairs the privileges committee but is not at the helm the Partygate investigation after recusing himself, he rejected the legal advice commissioned by the government by Lord Pannick as “bully shameful” and “wrong for several reasons”.
“Lord Pannick’s bizarre” opinion “has no formal status and is wrong in several respects,” he posted on social media.
“First, it does not mention that the motion that accused the commission makes no mention of ‘intentionally misleading’.
“Nor does it acknowledge that many aspects of standardization processes have changed over the years, including the introduction of the right of ministers to correct the record through a written ministerial statement, which was used 200 times last year.”
He continued: “It is time for this shameful bullying to stop. Let’s listen and see the evidence. If Johnson has a good case to file, he will be avenged. If not, he should take his punishment.”
Meanwhile, House of Commons shadow leader Thangam Debbonaire told BBC Radio 4’s World at One program that not allowing the Commons investigation to investigate whether Mr. Johnson has corrected the record on his partygate denials would amount to a cover-up. .
Lord Pannick is a classmate who previously acted against the government for anti-Brexit activist Gina Miller and Shamima Begum on the removal of his British citizenship.
Although Mr. Johnson will leave Number 10 next week, the Privileges Committee said it will go ahead with its investigation if Mr. Johnson has committed a contempt of parliament by telling lawmakers on several occasions that there were no parties against the block. to Downing Street and through Whitehall.
If the committee finds that there has been a contempt, it can recommend a sanction to the PM, but it is up to the House of Commons to accept or reject that recommendation.
Such a sanction could include suspension of Mr. Johnson from the House of Commons or even expulsion in a by-election after a recall petition.
The publication of the council has fueled questions that the final act of the departing PM will be to try to influence the process of the investigation against him.
But Mr. Johnson’s supporters have argued that Lord Pannick’s legal advice means that the investigation, which will be chaired by High Labor MP Harriet Harman, is expected to end.
Speaking ahead of the council’s publication, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries told the Daily Mail: “This expert legal opinion shows that the investigation was a partial, Kafkaesque witch hunt – it should now be halted before it does any more damage.” .
Parties violating COVID law in Downing Street were among the scandals that forced Mr. Johnson’s resignation as leader of the Tories in July.
His successor, Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss, will be announced on Monday 5th September – with voting closes on Friday at 5.00 pm.
Tory leader Liz Truss signaled during party protests that she would like to cancel the investigation.
The investigating committee is made up of seven MPs – four Conservatives, two Labor and one from the SNP – and has asked for evidence of Mr. Johnson’s “knowledge of the activities at 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet below. COVID-19 regulations, from the occurrence of such events up to now “, as well as” any information provided to Mr. Johnson or investigation by Mr. Johnson in connection with such events. “