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Privileges Committee chairman confirms when he will step aside to allow PM probe

Chris Bryant (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)
Chris Bryant (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

The chairman of the House of Commons Privileges Committee has confirmed when he will stand down to allow an inquiry to go ahead into whether the Prime Minister lied to Parliament over partygate.

Labour MP Chris Bryant said in a statement on Friday that he has summoned the committee to a meeting on June 7 to finalise business before a new head is elected.

It follows the publication on Wednesday of the Sue Gray report into Downing Street gatherings, which said “senior leadership” at No 10 must “bear responsibility” for the culture that led to lockdown rules being broken at a series of events in 2020 and 2021.

Last month, Mr Bryant sent a letter to the committee saying he would recuse himself from his position as it was “important that the House be seen to proceed fairly without any imputation of unfairness” following his public criticism of Boris Johnson.

It has been widely reported that former Labour Party leader Harriet Harman will be put forward by her party to replace him.

Mr Bryant said in a statement: “I have summoned a meeting of the Commons Privileges Committee for Tuesday 7 June to dispose of its outstanding business, namely a report on the powers of select committees, to follow up our earlier (May 2021) report on which we have been consulting.

Harriet Harman
Harriet Harman (Niall Carson/PA)

“That done, a motion to replace me on the committee with another Labour MP will go before the House, then the committee will meet again to elect a new chair and start its inquiry into the conduct of the Prime Minister, in which I will take no part as I have recused myself.”

He later clarified in a tweet he will remain in his position as chairman of the Standards Committee.

Mr Johnson has defied calls to quit after the Gray report and denied that he misled Parliament.

If the Privileges Committee finds him in contempt of Parliament, it could recommend he is forced to apologise, suspended from the Commons, or even expelled. Any sanction would need to be approved in a vote by all MPs.