Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson can’t catch a break, as while he awaits the Privileges Committee’s decision on whether he mislead the Commons over Partygate, he’s now been referred to the police again over another suspected breach of Covid rules during lockdown.
The Times cites two government sources which said Mr Johnson granted lawyers access to his diary to aid his defence when it comes to the ongoing public inquiry into Whitehall’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Except, when a “disclosure review” revealed information about friends visiting the PM’s Chequers retreat in Buckinghamshire while restrictions were in place, the lawyers felt duty-bound to pass on the potential rule breaches to the Cabinet Office.
The Cabinet Office then felt duty-bound under the civil service code to pass this on to the Privileges Committee, Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police, and here we are…
Of course, this isn’t the first time Mr Johnson’s lockdown activities have been reviewed by police, as in early 2022 he became the first prime minister to have broken the law while in office when he was slapped with a fixed penalty notice by the Metropolitan Police.
The scandal became known as Partygate, with the fine in question pertaining to a birthday party held for Mr Johnson in Downing Street during the first lockdown.
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Commenting on their decision to refer this new suspected breach to the police, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Information came to light during the process of preparing evidence for submission to the Covid inquiry. It was identified as part of the normal disclosure review of potentially relevant documents being undertaken by the legal team for inquiry witnesses.
\u201cEXCLUSIVE from @hzeffman\n\nBoris Johnson referred to police by the Cabinet Office over visits by friends to Chequers and Downing Street while covid restrictions were in place\n\nMet Police and Thames Valley Police confirm they are considering evidence\n\nhttps://t.co/3jZxZBqL5I\u201d— Steven Swinford (@Steven Swinford) 1684860910
“In line with obligations in the civil service code, this material has been passed to the relevant authorities and it is now a matter for them.”
Both the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley police confirmed in statements to The Times that they have received the information, they are assessing it, and that it concerns “potential breaches of the Health Protection Regulations between June 2020 and May 2021”.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “Some abbreviated entries in Mr Johnson’s official diary were queried by the Cabinet Office during preparation for the Covid inquiry.
“Following an examination of the entries, Mr Johnson’s lawyers wrote to the Cabinet Office and Privileges Committee explaining that the events were lawful and were not breaches of any Covid regulations.”
Mr Johnson’s team also branded the referral a “clearly politically motivated attempt to manufacture something out of nothing”.
The Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP is currently in America, with tweets this week showing him meeting with former US president George Bush, Texas governor Greg Abbott, and the Centre for European Policy Analysis.
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