The Daily Telegraph
Give Commons new vote on partygate inquiry, says MP who quit it
THE House of Commons should be given a fresh vote on whether to continue the “partygate” investigation into Boris Johnson, the Conservative MP who quit the inquiry in the summer has said in her first interview.
The privileges committee is investigating whether Mr Johnson lied to Parliament over the extent of parties in Whitehall during the Covid lockdowns. If he is found guilty of wrongdoing he could be suspended from the Commons and forced to fight a recall by-election to hang onto his seat as an MP.
Tory MP Laura Farris quit the committee last month, and in her first interview since then told The Daily Telegraph that another vote was needed because the “context had changed” now he has quit as Prime Minister.
The committee had originally been asked to examine whether Mr Johnson’s “conduct amounted to a contempt of the House” of Commons, according to a Labour motion passed by MPS in April. Ms Farris, 44, the MP for Newbury who entered Parliament in 2019, said she had understood this to mean that the committee was looking at whether Mr Johnson had breached the ministerial code by “knowingly” misleading the Commons.
However, she decided to quit because he had resigned as the Prime Minister and the code no longer applied.
In an interview on Chopper’s Politics podcast, she said: “I left because I had understood that we were really dealing with this issue of the ministerial code. And of course he’s no longer the Prime Minister so the ministerial code doesn’t apply.”
Given this, MPS should now vote again on whether to continue the inquiry or wind it up.
She said: “I don’t want to ‘backseat drive’. But there is a sensible argument that the House should be asked again what its view is of this issue.
“If there was a debate, people would be making arguments, maybe different arguments. I think it may be right that there is room for the House to consider the issue again before it goes to the next stage.”
The “context had fundamentally changed” once Mr Johnson resigned, she said.
Ms Farris, a barrister specialising in employment law, who used to advise the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said she had not known she was on the committee when the motion to start the investigation was passed unchallenged by the Government in late April.
She said: “It is a tremendous ‘ask’ of a group of MPS, not all of whom are lawyers, to undertake a task that is quasi judicial. They are advised by a retired Court of Appeal judge.”
She added that Mr Johnson had a right to a fair trial.
Listen to Chopper’s Politics podcast, featuring interviews with Laura Farris MP, the Institute of Economic Affairs’ Mark Littlewood, former Number 10 adviser Lord Udny-lister and business minister Lord Callanan at http://playpodca.st/chopper.