Boris Johnson referred to police over fresh claims of COVID lockdown rule breaking | Politics News

Boris Johnson has been referred to the police by the Cabinet Office over new claims he broke COVID lockdown rules.

The former prime minister’s ministerial diary has revealed visits by friends to Chequers during the pandemic.

The trips to the country residence were highlighted during preparations for a public inquiry into COVID.

Politics Live: Boris Johnson’s diary shows friends visiting him at Chequers during lockdown

The Cabinet Office has passed concerns to the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police.

The privileges committee, which is investigating claims Mr Johnson misled parliament over partygate, has also been informed, according to The Times which first reported on the story.

The news has sparked calls for Mr Johnson to step down as an MP.

But sources close to him called the referral “clearly politically motivated” and claimed the Cabinet Office did not give him any notice “so he could put forward the facts before the report was made”.

Mr Johnson has been advised by lawyers that the events were lawful.

A spokesperson for Mr Johnson said: “Some abbreviated entries in Mr Johnson’s official diary were queried by Cabinet Office during preparation for the COVID Inquiry.

“Following an examination of the entries, Mr Johnson’s lawyers wrote to the Cabinet Office and privileges committee explaining that the events were lawful and were not breaches of any COVID regulations.”

Police are currently “assessing” concerns, but a formal investigation has not yet been launched.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police said the details were passed to them on 19 May and they relate “to potential breaches of the Health Protection Regulations between June 2020 and May 2021 at Downing Street”.

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‘Hand on heart I did not lie’

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Information came to light during the process of preparing evidence for submission to the COVID Inquiry.

“It was identified as part of the normal disclosure review of potentially relevant documents being undertaken by the legal team for inquiry witnesses.

“In line with obligations in the Civil Service Code, this material has been passed to the relevant authorities and it is now a matter for them.”

Johnson ‘should consider his position as MP’

The Liberal Democrats have called for Mr Johnson to consider his position as an MP.

Deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “It’s outrageous that rumours of alleged rule breaking by Boris Johnson are still being drip-fed to the public.

“The fact that it’s one rule for them and one rule for the rest of us still triggers a raw sense of injustice in millions of people.

“Sunak must make sure that not a single penny more of taxpayer money is spent on Johnson’s legal fund; and Johnson should finally do one decent thing and consider his position as an MP.”

What were the lockdown rules at the time?

June 2020 – after the initial “stay at home” order, rules are relaxed to allow a maximum of six people to meet outdoors for non-work purposes.

July 2020 – two households of any size are allowed to meet in indoor or outdoor settings.

August 2020 – people are encouraged to go out again with the introduction of the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme

September 2020 – rules begin to be tightened again with the “rule of six” banning any social gathering of more than six people.

November 2020 – Second national lockdown – people can leave home to meet only one person outside their support bubble.

Restrictions were eased through December and over Christmas.

January 2021 – Third national lockdown for England – people were again told to stay at home and and not meet anyone outside their support bubble, with limited exceptions for religious gatherings like weddings.

March 2021 – Six people or two households, regardless of size, allowed to mingle outdoors again.

May 2021 – Restrictions further lifted with 30 people permitted to mix outdoors, the rule of six or two household rule applied indoors.

Lindsay Jackson, spokeswoman for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, branded Mr Johnson “totally unfit for any form of public service” and suggested he “quietly step back from public life”.

“His legacy is one of lying, complete contempt for the ordinary people he was supposed to protect, and above all presiding over the deaths of nearly 200,000 people,” she said.

“If he had any respect he’d quietly step back from public life and reflect on the pain and suffering he has inflicted on so many.”

However Ben Bradley, the Tory MP for Mansfield, said the world “has moved on” from partygate.

He told Sky News: “My sense of all of this is that, frankly, the former prime minister has been through that, we’ve investigated that, the country’s dealt with that – I think the world’s moved on.”

The partygate scandal overshadowed the end of Boris Johnson’s premiership and played a major role in his downfall last year.

Boris Johnson
The partygate scandal overshadowed the end of Boris Johnson’s premiership

Details of drunkenness, fighting and late-night parties at the heart of government while the nation lived under lockdown restrictions were laid bare in a damning report by Sue Gray – who said “senior leadership” must take responsibility for a culture of rule breaking.

Its publication came after the Met Police concluded its investigation into lockdown-breaking events in Downing Street and Whitehall, which resulted in 126 fines being issued for 83 people.

Mr Johnson received one of those fines, for attending his own birthday party in the cabinet room in Downing Street in June 2020.

He narrowly survived a confidence vote in June 2022 but was brought down a month later over his handling of the Chris Pincher affair.

The privileges committee is now investigating whether Mr Johnson knowingly misled parliament with his repeated insistence that rules were followed at all times.

He could be suspended from the Commons and face a by-election if they find he purposefully misled the House.