Boris Johnson has denied lying to MPs over the partygate scandal but admitted it was not correct when he told Parliament that the rules had been followed at all times.
The Prime Minister claimed to have been “vindicated” by Sue Gray’s inquiry into lockdown-busting events in No 10, even though he has been fined for attending the birthday party thrown for him in the Cabinet Room in June 2020.
Mr Johnson has faced repeated claims that he knowingly misled Parliament – something which would normally result in the resignation of a minister – in his denials of wrongdoing while England was under coronavirus lockdown.
He told MPs: “I am happy to set on the record now that when I said – I came to this House and said in all sincerity – the rules and guidance had been followed at all times, it was what I believed to be true.
“It was certainly the case when I was present at gatherings to wish staff farewell, and the House will note that my attendance at these moments – brief as it was – has not been found to be outside the rules.
“But clearly this was not the case for some of those gatherings after I had left, and at other gatherings when I was not even in the building.
“So I would like to correct the record, to take this opportunity, not in any sense to absolve myself of responsibility – which I take and have always taken – but simply to explain why I spoke as I did in this House.”
Former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland pointed out that “the rules of this House are clear – that anybody who comes here and deliberately lies and misleads this House should leave their position, resign or apologise”.
The senior Tory asked Mr Johnson if he had “deliberately lied to us”.
The Prime Minister told him: “No, for the reason I have given, that at the time that I spoke to this House I believed that what I was doing was to attend work events.
“And with the exception of the event in the Cabinet Room, that is a view that has been vindicated by the investigation.”
The Commons Privileges Committee is expected to begin an inquiry in June into whether Mr Johnson committed a contempt of Parliament through his comments.
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