Boris Johnson has submitted a dossier of written evidence ahead of an appearance in front of the Privileges Committee on Wednesday.

The former Prime Minister is defending himself from charges that he deliberately misled Parliament over the Partygate scandal.

In his submission, Mr Johnson claimed that he trusted the assurances of key aides and claimed that “drinking wine or exchanging gifts” at work did not break the law.

The arguments will likely be probed and challenged during Wednesday’s appearance in front of MPs, which you will be able to watch live.

What time is Boris Johnson’s Partygate hearing?

Mr Johnson will give evidence to the Privileges Committee on Wednesday 22 March, starting at 2pm – the session could last up to five hours.

The hearing will be aired to the public, with a live stream available on this page once he begins giving evidence.

It will also be broadcast live on Parliament TV, with extensive coverage BBC News and Sky News on TV, accessible online through BBC iPlayer here and the Sky News live YouTube stream.

What is the Privileges Committee?

The Privileges Committee is a cross-party group of seven MPs, comprised of four Conservative, two Labour and one SNP member. The group is currently chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman.

The select committee is appointed by the House of Commons to consider specific matters relating to privileges referred to it by the House.

Parliamentary privilege is a legal immunity enjoyed by members of the House of Commons and House of Lords designed to ensure that parliamentarians are able to carry out their duties free from interference.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves his home, in London, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
A dossier outlining the ex-PM’s defence was released on Tuesday (Photo: AP)

What did Boris Johnson say in his defence dossier?

The 52-page dossier, which was released in full on Tuesday, tees up some of the key defences the ex-PM will try to rely on when he appears on Wednesday – here are some of the key points:

A ‘cramped’ workplace

Mr Johnson and his legal team emphasise the unique experience of working in Downing Street during the pandemic, noting the cramped work conditions and all-hours nature of the job.

The architecture of Downing Street features, as Mr Johnson claims that the building made it “inevitable” that “full social distancing was not always possible”.

That was not a breach of the guidance, the prime minister stresses, and there were various measures to keep people safe and follow the rules.

Belief guidance wasn’t breached

Mr Johnson offers a run through of each of the high-profile gatherings in No 10 to make clear that he did not believe guidance or rules were being breached.

For instance, referencing the gathering in the garden of Downing Street for No 10 staff on 20 May 2020, he tells the committee he stands by what he told Parliament in January last year, when he told the Commons he “believed implicitly that this was a work event, but with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside”.

Hindsight, he says, is a “wonderful thing” but he insists that he believed the gathering was “consistent” with rules and guidance.

Mr Johnson says that if either Lee Cain or Dominic Cummings had raised a concern “the event would not have gone ahead”, while noting that the report by Sue Gray “did not find that any concerns in relation to the event were drawn to my attention”.

And on the fine for attending a birthday bash in Downing Street, he insist that it “remains unclear” how he and Mr Sunak committed an offence and that “no cake was eaten” and “no-one even sang ‘happy birthday”‘.

The 13 November event where Mr Johnson gave a leaving speech for Mr Cain, his departing director of communications, is also mentioned.

In his defence, Mr Johnson says that in general “thanking and encouraging staff” and “maintaining morale” were “absolutely essential” for work purposes. It was, he claimed, a “duty as prime minister” to say a few words of thanks.


Mr Johnson, in arguing that he did not mislead the House, places great stock in both the assurances he had received as prime minister and the fact that no one around had expressed concerns themselves.

It forms one of his central defences, with a cast of officials cited to bolster that claim.

This forms a key defence for his statement to the Commons on 1 December when he told Sir Keir Starmer: “What I can tell the right honourable and learned gentleman is that all guidance was followed completely in No 10.”

That remark, Mr Johnson claims, was based on a number of things including his understanding of the rules and the fact that believed “that there was nothing to conceal or cover up”.

Crucially, he cites assurances from former director of communications Jack Doyle that the event on December 18 “was within the rules”.

No smoking gun

The former PM makes much of the fact that there is no evidence that he ever received warnings about breaches of guidance.

He says that despite having “trawled the contemporaneous documents”, the committee has “not found a single record that indicates that I ever received any such warning”.

Mr Johnson makes the same point to rebut the committee’s much-cited claim that the evidence “strongly suggests that breaches of guidance would have been obvious to Mr Johnson at the time he was at the gatherings”.

Correcting the record

Elements of the contempt charge will hang on whether Mr Johnson failed to correct the record in the House, a reasonably common occurrence if ministers or MPs misspeak.

Mr Johnson maintains that he did to this, at the earliest opportunity, on 25 May 2022, six days after the end of the Met investigation and the same day that Ms Gray published her report.

The remit of the committee

Issue is also taken by Mr Johnson with the remit and fairness of the committee process.

In particular, he claims that the committee has “gone beyond its terms of reference”, adding that scope of the Committee’s “remit is exclusively concerned with assertions regarding compliance with the legally binding Regulations” as opposed to also including guidance.

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