Lying to parliament a resigning matter, says Raab, amid claims PM misled MPs

Dominic Raab: ‘If it’s lying … it would normally, under the ministerial code and the governance around parliament, be a resigning matter.’ Photograph: Reuters

The Guardian
By Jessica Elgot

Justice secretary says allegations that Boris Johnson lied about No 10 lockdown party are ‘nonsense’

Dominic Raab has admitted that lying to parliament is “normally” a resigning matter, amid claims that the prime minister deliberately misled MPs over his knowledge of a Downing Street party.

Boris Johnson’s former senior aide Dominic Cummings had earlier accused the prime minister of lying when No 10 denied Johnson had been warned against allowing a “bring your own booze” garden party during lockdown.

The justice secretary said it was “nonsense” that Johnson had lied to MPs, saying he felt the prime minister’s account was to be believed. But he added that any deliberate falsehood in the Commons would leave Johnson in jeopardy.

“If it’s lying, deliberate in the way you describe, if it’s not corrected immediately, it would normally, under the ministerial code and the governance around parliament, be a resigning matter,” Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday.

Raab had said on Sky News earlier that Johnson was “confident he’s been straightforward” with parliament and said the “PM has been very clear” that Cummings’ claims were “not true or accurate”.

Johnson admitted to parliament last week that he attended drinks in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020 but claimed he had not realised it was a social gathering.

Cummings wrote a blogpost on Monday challenging that account. He said he told Martin Reynolds, a senior official, that the invitation broke the rules and claimed Reynolds replied: “So long as it’s socially distanced I think it’s OK, I’ll check with the PM if he’s happy for it to go ahead.”

Cummings said in his blogpost: “Not only me but other eyewitnesses who discussed this at the time would swear under oath this is what happened.” Sue Gray, the senior civil servant in charge of the inquiry into Downing Street lockdown parties, could make a formal request to interview Cummings, Whitehall sources confirmed. It is within the remit of the inquiry to approach former members of staff if their evidence might be relevant.

No 10 staff had hoped that the inquiry, which is examining more than 15 separate allegations of illegal gatherings in Downing Street, would conclude this week. Because of the constant drip of new parties and developments, officials believe it may not report until next week.

Cummings then said that, during a discussion over the future of the cabinet secretary and Reynolds, he had said to the prime minister something like: “Martin’s invited the building to a drinks party, this is what I’m talking about, you’ve got to grip this madhouse.”

Cummings added: “The PM waved it aside. I had told him repeatedly the PPS [parliamentary private secretary] should be replaced, as had other competent officials who knew the whole structure needed a huge upgrade in personnel and management.”