Boris allies demand apology for two lies published by the Cabinet Office
Boris Johnson erupts at 'complete nonsense' in Partygate grilling
Allies of Boris Johnson have this evening accused the Cabinet Office of putting out two deliberate lies in statements today, regarding the referral of the former Prime Minister to the police.
Last night, it was revealed the Civil Service had referred Mr Johnson to the police, after his taxpayer-funded lawyers voiced concerns about supposed rule-breaking events held at Chequers during periods of Covid restrictions.
After a day of briefing and counter-briefing, allies of Mr Johnson believe they have spotted two factual errors published today by the Cabinet Office, and accused the top Government department of trying to “lie its way out”.
Sources close to Boris Johnson have demanded public apologies from the deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, and departmental minister Jeremy Quin.
The first alleged lie is over an emphatic statement issued by the department today, as allegations from Boris Johnson allies emerged that the referral to the police was a “stitch up”.
The Cabinet Office published a statement saying they had not made any assessment of the events themselves, nor made any actual accusations of lawbreaking.
Mr Johnson’s supporters now say this has been contradicted in a letter the Cabinet Office sent to Harriet Harman’s Commons Privileges Committee, which is currently investigating whether the former PM misled parliament about law-breaking events during lockdown.
Today Ms Harman’s Privileges Committee said the Government had told them that: “as part of their work preparing Boris Johnson’s witness statement for the Covid Inquiry (due to be filed on 29 May), the counsel team supporting Mr Johnson identified a number of diary entries as potentially problematic.
“These entries […] are based on an assessment by Government Legal Department as to events/activities which could reasonably be considered to constitute breaches of Covid Regulations.”
Mr Johnson’s allies say this is a clear allegation against the former Prime Minister, based on an assessment, which made without his knowledge.
There appears to be a discrepancy between whether Mr Johnson’s lawyers are considered by both camps to constitute part of the wider Government Legal Department.
The Cabinet Office argues that lawyers looking at facts and meeting professional obligations to pass that information on to relevant authorities is not the Cabinet Office making an assessment nor a judgement.
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The second allegation surrounds when ministers knew about the allegations.
The Cabinet Office has been at pains today to emphasise the civil service handled the information without any involvement from Government ministers, officials, political advisors or the Cabinet Secretary.
Earlier today, the Express was led to believe the whole matter was not one to be considered by Ministers nor the Cabinet Secretary.
This evening, however, the Daily Mail reports that Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin “signed off the handover of material to the privileges committee without informing Mr Johnson”.
Again, here the discrepancy lies in whether the department has consistently denied Ministerial involvement at all stage, or just in the police referral.
Tonight the Cabinet office says: “Ministers played no role in deciding whether the information should be handed over to the police.”
“The police were first contacted on 16th May prior to any Minister being made aware.
“The decision to contact the police and the subsequent decision to share the information was not made by Ministers but by officials acting in line with the Civil Service Code.”
An ally of Mr Johnson said: “There can be no other conclusion that the Cabinet Office is in a total mess and trying to lie its way out”.
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