LONDON — Boris Johnson denied lying to the House of Commons over the Partygate scandal as a marathon grilling on the former prime minister’s conduct got underway Wednesday.
The cross-party privileges committee, chaired by Labour grandee Harriet Harman, is examining whether Johnson knowingly misled parliament about COVID rule-breaking parties in Downing Street when he made statements about the gatherings — later the subject of police fines — to the House of Commons.
After swearing an oath on the King James Bible, Johnson told the committee: “I am here to say to you, hand on heart, that I did not lie to the house.”
And he added: “When those statements were made they were made in good faith and on the basis of what I knew and believed at the time.”
Johnson — who is being probed on whether he “intentionally or recklessly” misled the House and could face sanctions from fellow MPs if found to have done so — said that “as soon as it was clear that I was wrong,” he had corrected the record.
And he challenged the committee to provide further evidence that he had knowingly misinformed MPs. “You have been investigating this for more than 10 months … You have found nothing to show that I was warned in advance that events in No. 10 were illegal,” he said.
The former Tory leader argued that the group of MPs had failed to show that anyone had “raised anxieties with me about any event before or after they took place” — with one exception, testimony from his old-aide-turned nemesis Dominic Cummings.
“He has every motive to lie,” Johnson added.
“It would be one thing if the committee came to me today and said look, here are the emails or whatsapps that show that you were warned about rule breaking before you made your statements to the house. You haven’t got any such evidence, because that never happened.”
Amid accusations of bias from Johnson’s allies, Harman said MPs on the committee would “leave our party interest at the door and conduct our work in the interests of the house.” They would, she said, expect “proactive candor” from the former PM.
This developing story is being updated.