Rishi Sunak will not step in to stop Boris Johnson being suspended from the Commons if he is found to have lied to Parliament, the Prime Minister has promised.
Mr Johnson will give evidence next week to the privileges committee which is investigating whether he knowingly misled MPs when he told them that no Covid rules had been broken in Downing Street.
If he is found to be in contempt in Parliament, the committee may recommend that he should be banned from the Commons for a number of days.
The whole House would then have the final say, and in previous votes – including the case of Owen Paterson – the Government has instructed Conservative MPs to oppose the recommended penalty.
During his trip to San Diego, the Prime Minister was asked by ITV News whether he would consider intervening to block his predecessor from being suspended.
He replied: “That wouldn’t be right. This is a matter for Parliament and the House. It’s not a matter for the Government.”
If Mr Johnson does end up getting suspended from Parliament for a significant length of time, that could trigger a recall petition in his constituency which would allow local voters to trigger a by-election.
The privileges committee inquiry is widely seen as the greatest obstacle stopping Mr Johnson from returning to the political front line in earnest. Some Conservative MPs cited the probe as a reason why he should not be brought back as party leader following the downfall of Liz Truss.
In late 2021, Mr Johnson ordered Tory backbenchers to overturn a proposed suspension for his ally Mr Paterson, who was found to have breached Parliament’s lobbying rules. The incident helped lead to his eventual deposition after sparking a furious backlash.