British Police are investigating fresh claims former Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke COVID-19 lockdown rules when he was in office in 2020 and 2021. Photo via Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/UPI | License Photo
May 24 (UPI) -- Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been referred to the police for further possible breaches of lockdown rules when he was in office in 2020 and 2021, London's Metropolitan and Thames Valley police forces confirmed Wednesday.
Lawyers helping Johnson to prepare to give evidence to a public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic allegedly found entries recording gatherings of family and friends at his country residence in his ministerial diary to which Johnson had given them access.
They passed the records to the Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office said only that it had passed details of the possible breaches "to the relevant authorities and it is now a matter for them," The Times first reported.
Those authorities are said to include the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police, which the BBC reported as saying they were assessing the information they had received, as well as the Parliament's Privileges Committee, which is investigating the so-called Partygate scandal.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed it was looking at information received that "relates to potential breaches of the Health Protection Regulations between June 2020 and May 2021 at Downing Street," while Thames Valley Police said it had received a report of potential breaches of the regulations in the same period -- but at Chequers in Buckinghamshire, the official country residence of the prime minister.
Johnson's office said the allegations were untrue and condemned the move as a "clearly politically motivated attempt to manufacture something out of nothing," and criticized the Cabinet Office for its failure to contact Johnson before making the allegations to the police and privileges committee, which it called "bizarre and unacceptable."
"For whatever political purpose, it is plain that a last-ditch attempt is being made to lengthen the privileges committee investigation as it was coming to a conclusion and to undermine Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson's lawyers have tonight written to the police forces involved to explain in detail why the Cabinet Office is entirely wrong in its assertions."
The Privileges Committee is currently weighing whether Johnson knowingly misled MPs over Downing Street lockdown parties during 2020 and 2021. When he appeared before the panel in March, Johnson claimed he had been assured by his advisers that the gatherings were not parties and that he acted in good faith when he told the House of Commons there had been no parties.
However, if the panel concludes that any misleading statement made by Johnson was intentional or reckless, he faces being suspended or expelled from Parliament for being contempt of the House of Commons.
Expulsion would force a by-election in Johnson's Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, a seat he has held since 2015. The House has the final say over whether any sanction is enforced.