MPs investigating whether Boris Johnson misled parliament over the partygate scandal have rejected the claim the inquiry is “fundamentally flawed”.
The former prime minister could be suspended and ultimately kicked out of parliament if he is found guilty.
Johnson repeatedly told the Commons no Covid rules had been broken in Downing Street on his watch. It turned out they had.
In an attempt to discredit the privileges committee probe, Johnson endorsed a legal opinion by leading KC Lord Pannick which argued it was “unfair”.
Lord Pannick said Johnson should be allowed to be represented at the hearings by counsel who would be able speak on his behalf and cross-examine witnesses.
But on Monday the privileges committee dismissed that argument. “Lord Pannick’s opinion is founded on a systemic misunderstanding of the parliamentary process and misplaced analogies with the criminal law,” the MPs said.
“The committee’s work, and by implication the House as a whole, has been subject to much groundless criticism and comment, extending to personal attacks from some quarters on members of the Committee.
“Such a campaign is unprecedented and should be regarded as unacceptable; in some instances these attacks constitute a potential contempt of parliament because they appear to be designed to impede the functioning of the House.”
The committee said while witnesses were allowed to be accompanied by a legal adviser, it would require a change in the procedures of the House to allow them to take part in the hearings.
Lord Pannick’s legal defence – commissioned by the government – reportedly cost the taxpayer nearly £130,000.