LONDON (Reuters) – Former British prime minister Boris Johnson accepted on Tuesday he misled parliament over the answers he gave about parties held in government buildings during the coronavirus pandemic, but he denied having done so “intentionally or recklessly”.
Below are some of the main reasons he gave in written evidence for why he believes he did not mislead parliament:
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 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.
COMMITTEE IS ‘PARTISAN’
Johnson said the interim report published earlier this month by the committee was “highly partisan” and appeared to be making conclusions before listening to his evidence.
The report said Johnson may have misled parliament on four occasions. The “report appears to record findings of fact, despite the fact that the committee has not yet heard any evidence from me,” he said.
JOKE ABOUT SOCIAL DISTANCING
Johnson said it was “unlikely” he made a joke about an event breaking social distancing rules at one event in November 2020.
In the interim report, the committee cited an official as saying that Johnson had told a crowded event in his Downing Street office that it was “probably the most unsocially distanced gathering in the UK” at a time when the government had imposed a national lockdown.
The committee said Johnson gave the speech to an audience “standing four or five deep”. At the time, restrictions prevented indoor social gatherings of two or more people from different households.
Johnson said he does not remember saying the words and it “seems unlikely” given it was “a small and impromptu event”.
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, Editing by Elizabeth Piper and Gareth Jones)
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