Welsh MP launches blistering attack on Prime Minister after Partygate fine.
Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, the chair of Westminster’s standards committee, has launched a blistering attack on Prime Minister Boris Johnson following yesterday’s confirmation he’d been fined for attending a party during the Covid lockdown.
In a social media post Mr Bryant explained that he thought it was unlikely the committee he chairs would be asked to investigate the partygate scandal at Downing Street, adding the Prime Minister had “repeatedly lied to parliament” and “is not fit for office”.
The Prime Minister, his wife Carrie Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak were all issued with fines relating to a gathering in the Cabinet Room on June 19 2020 to mark his 56th birthday.
“Under standing orders we only proceed if the independent parliamentary commissioner for standards has launched an investigation and found a breach of the rules,” Mr Bryant explained.
“She then sends a memorandum to the committee. We consider it and ask the member for comments in writing or in person. If we uphold the commissioner’s view we propose a sanction which has to be tabled by the government and voted on by the House. Witness, the Paterson case.
“The Commissioner has no remit regarding the Ministerial Code. Nor does she rule on whether a Member has told the truth.
“So I cannot see how a case could come to the Committee. (Which is why I have felt able to comment publicly). This is a matter for the PM’s Advisor on the Ministerial Code, Lord Geidt, who reports to the PM.
“More importantly the PM is only PM because he has a majority in the Commons. So this is a political decision for Tory MPs the House and for voters. Any Commons process relies on this same simple point of the majority.
“In my book the PM broke the law, repeatedly lied to parliament and refused to correct the record. That is a threefold breach of the ministerial code. He is not fit for office. I wish it were otherwise, but until Tories wake up Johnson remains the sole arbiter of his own conduct
“So far we have only heard the fact of fines being imposed. The culprits have then given their account. Sue Grey’s report will give the full story. Then Tories may change tack.”
Yesterday, the Prime Minister and Chancellor both paid fines and apologised for attending the birthday bash in Downing Street during Covid restrictions.
Mr Johnson said it “did not occur” to him that the gathering in the Cabinet Room was a violation of coronavirus rules, but that he “now humbly accepts” he did breach Covid-19 laws.
Mr Sunak, meanwhile, said: “I deeply regret the frustration and anger caused and I am sorry.”
The Prime Minister, speaking to broadcasters at Chequers, said he “fully respects” the outcome of the police investigation and that he accepted “in all sincerity that people had the right to expect better” from him.
Mr Sunak said: “I understand that for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence. I respect the decision that has been made and have paid the fine.”
Outlining the busy nature of the day the fine related to, Mr Johnson said he chaired eight meetings in No 10 and followed them up with a four-hour round trip to a school in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.
He said: “There was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2pm lasting for less than 10 minutes, during which people I work with kindly passed on their good wishes.
“And I have to say in all frankness at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules.”
He added: “I now humbly accept that I was.
“But I think the best thing I can do now is, having settled the fine, is focus on the job in hand. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Asked if he thought more fines were coming his way, he said the media would be among the first to know.
Scotland Yard on Tuesday announced a further tranche of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) in relation to Operation Hillman, which is probing possible Covid breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall, with more than 50 fines referred to the Acro Criminal Records Office since the inquiry started.
Reports have suggested that up to 30 people attended the do and sang Happy Birthday in the Cabinet Room.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.