Boris Johnson is not the victim of a ‘stitch-up’ over new claims of Covid rule breaches, says No10
No10 on Wednesday dismissed claims that Boris Johnson is the victim of a politically-motivated stitch-up over new claims of Covid rule breaches.
Downing Street also stressed that Rishi Sunak had no involvement in a decision to refer the former Prime Minister to police over the fresh allegations.
Asked whether civil servants or ministers are involved in a stitch-up on the issue, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: "No. I think you have seen details set out by the Cabinet Office on this.
"To be clear, we have not seen the information or material in question. That would not be right. Nor has the Prime Minister.
"No 10 and ministers have no involvement in this process and were only made aware after the police had been contacted."
Earlier, a Cabinet minister said civil servants would have come under fire if they had “sat” on documents which they passed to police about more alleged Covid rule breaches by Mr Johnson.
But Justice Secretary Alex Chalk also stopped short of rejecting allegations of a Civil Service “stitch-up” against the ex-PM, as claimed by his allies.
Speaking on LBC Radio, said: “There is a Covid inquiry taking place.
“In the course of that, documentation has to be scrubbed or reviewed by lawyers to ensure it can be disclosed in the normal way.
“Material came to light which was passed to the Civil Service.
“The Civil Service considered that in accordance with their code and with no ministerial intervention, I want to make that absolutely clear, that was then passed to the police.
“From the Civil Service’s point of view if they had sat on it and suppressed it, people would have criticised them, if they passed it on that will raise questions as well.
“Ultimately, whether it was the right judgement to do it turns on what is in those documents and I’ve not seen those documents so it’s very difficult to make a judgement.
“So, I’m afraid this has just got to take its course in the normal way.”
Pressed earlier on GB NEws on whether he accepted that it was a stitch-up by the Civil Service, as claimed by Mr Johnson’s allies, he explained: “It’s not a question of not accepting it.
“It’s simply I can’t reach a view either way.
“What will have happened is the material will have been passed to the Civil Service.
“Once they have seen it, they can’t unsee it so they have got to make a decision in accordance with the Civil Service code, whether to sit on it, whether to suppress it, and no doubt someone would criticise them for that, or whether to pass it to police.
“But the decision about whether that was the right or the wrong thing will be determined by what was in it, what the documents said.
“We just have to play it’s course.”
Mr Johnson has been reported to the police by the Cabinet Office over fresh claims that he may have broken lockdown rules during the pandemic.
Information has been passed to two forces over alleged visits from the former prime minister’s friends to Chequers as well as potential breaches within Downing Street, The Times reported.
The Metropolitan Police said it was “currently assessing” details it had received relating to incidents between June 2020 and May 2021.
A spokesman 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.”
It was also suggested the move was “politically motivated” and the former prime minister had been given no notice of the report.
The Cabinet Office 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.”
The Metropolitan Police said: “We are in receipt of information from the Cabinet Office passed to us on May 19 2023, which we are currently assessing. It relates to potential breaches of the health protection regulations between June 2020 and May 2021 at Downing Street.”
In a statement given to The Times, Thames Valley Police also confirmed they were looking into a report of potential breaches of the rules at Chequers.
They told the paper: “On Thursday we received a report of potential breaches of the health protection regulations between June 2020 and May 2021 at Chequers, Buckinghamshire. We are currently assessing this information.”
It comes as the Commons privileges committee investigates whether Mr Johnson misled Parliament over lockdown-breaking at No10.
The committee is due to report next month. If it recommends suspending the prime minister for more than 10 days he could face a by-election for his west London seat.
Labour called for taxpayer-funded legal support for Mr Johnson’s participation in the partygate inquiry to come to an end and said he had “serious questions to answer".
“I just believe it's wrong that the taxpayer is continuing to fund Boris Johnson's legal defence here. Rishi Sunak should bring that to an end," shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said.
The Government's bill for Mr Johnson's legal fees in the committee’s investigation is an estimated £222,000.