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Live Reporting

Edited by Rob Corp

All times stated are UK

  1. Thank you for being with us

    We're about to close up this live page after a day of political drama in Westminster.

    Our news story on Boris Johnson's Privileges Committee hearing is here, plus you can read the considered take of our political editor Chris Mason, and political correspondent Ione Wells - who reported live into this page from inside the Parliamentary committee room where the hearing took place.

    The writers over the course of the day were Emily McGarvey, Adam Durbin, Becky Morton, Jamie Whitehead and Chas Geiger. Videos were by Gem O'Reilly, Arryn Moy and James Harness. The editors were James Fitzgerald, Rob Corp and Kevin Ponniah.

  2. What happened today?

    Key moments from Johnson's evidence over Partygate

    After more than three hours - minus a couple of interruptions for Commons votes - Boris Johnson has given his evidence to the MPs investigating whether Parliament was deliberately or recklessly misled about the breaking of Covid lockdown rules in Downing Street.

    Here's a recap of the key moments from the hearing:

    • Boris Johnson swore "hand on heart, I did not lie to the House" and reiterated that his statements to the Commons were made in "good faith"
    • The former prime minister said that if it was so "obvious" that there was rule-breaking in No 10, as the committee has argued, then it would also have been "obvious" to others, including Rishi Sunak
    • He argued the process being used to decide whether he was in contempt of Parliament was "manifestly unfair" and the MPs "found nothing to show that I was warned in advance that events in No 10 were illegal"
    • After being shown a picture of himself surrounded by colleagues and drinks at a leaving do in November 2020, Johnson accepted that "perfect social distancing is not being observed" but denied it was in breach of the guidance, saying he believed it was "absolutely essential for work purposes"
    • He defended various other rule-breaking events, including a birthday gathering for which he was fined, as being "necessary for work purposes"
    • The hearing got heated when Conservative MP Alberto Costa suggested Johnson's reliance on the advice of aides rather than senior civil servants was a "deflection mechanism", which Johnson called "completely ridiculous"
    • Committee chair, Labour's Harriet Harman, described his assurances as "flimsy", saying they "did not amount to much at all"
  3. Analysis

    A convenient time for No 10 to release Sunak's tax details

    Chris Mason

    Political editor

    Today was about Boris Johnson’s reputation. But it was - in reality - much bigger than that.

    Public debate is built on truth and some think that toppled over under Boris Johnson.

    MPs are now trying to determine if the former prime minister lied to them.

    Lengthy, detailed and at times testy, the testimony was punctuated - on an energetic day at Westminster - by a vote on Rishi Sunak's Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, which passed easily despite Johnson's opposition.

    Boris Johnson giving evidence before the Privileges committee

    And, it just so happened that right in middle of all of this, Downing Street decided it was the ideal time (for them) that the long-awaited details of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's tax affairs found their way into the light of day.

    A man of vast wealth pays a vast amount of tax, nearly £500,000 last year. Unsurprising, but eye catching, were Westminster's eyes not diverted elsewhere.

    The Privileges Committee now needs to digest Johnson's account and work out if it amounts to a reckless or intentional misleading of parliament.

    It all poses three questions tonight.

    Do they believe him? Do you believe him? And what will a day like this mean for how our leaders conduct themselves in future?

  4. WATCH: Johnson questioned about his birthday gathering

    Earlier the committee looked into messages discussing the gathering on 19 June 2020 - Boris Johnson's birthday. Johnson is told that Jack Doyle, his senior adviser at the time, expressed doubts whether the event was within the rules.

    Johnson says he wasn't aware that Doyle was doubtful of the gathering.

    Video content

    Video caption: Johnson is questioned about his birthday event
  5. Johnson's constituents divided on his conduct

    Frankie McCamley

    Reporting from Uxbridge, west London

    In Uxbridge town centre, Boris Johnson’s constituents are fully aware and engaged with proceedings today.

    It isn’t hard to find someone with a strong opinion either way.

    People in his west London seat are either vehemently pro-Johnson, or anti the former prime minister.

    Some say he has been "set up" by opposing politicians, but others say he should face the consequences of his actions during lockdown.

    Despite differing strong opinions, his constituents all want him to focus on helping them.

    One resident said housing should be at the top of his agenda rather than the "Partygate scandal".

  6. Mask has slipped for Johnson, SNP says

    The Scottish National Party describe Boris Johnson's appearance at the committee as "utterly excruciating".

    The party's Westminster deputy leader Mhairi Black says his "mask slipped under interrogation" and "his absurd claims were exposed as not remotely credible".

    "Most people watching will conclude it's now beyond doubt that the Tory former prime minister not only broke the law but also deliberately misled Parliament," she adds.

    If the committee concludes Johnson did mislead MPs, she says Prime Minister Rishi Sunak must suspend him from the Conservative parliamentary party permanently "or he will show he's weak, unprincipled and lacks the integrity to be prime minister".

  7. Rees-Mogg implies committee is 'kangaroo court' during hearing

    One of the final lines of questioning to Boris Johnson was about whether he agreed with some of his allies' comments that the Privileges Committee are biased against him.

    The former PM was specifically asked if he agreed with their use of the phrase "kangaroo court" or "witch hunt" - both generally used to refer to an unfair and pre-determined trial or legal inquiry - to describe their investigation.

    Johnson said he disapproves of their use.

    He also told the committee: "I do not want to see good colleagues feeling that they are under pressure either way."

    But during the hearing, staunch Johnson ally Jacob Rees-Mogg - who was in the committee room at the time in support of the former PM - tweeted that "Boris is doing very well against the marsupials".

    For the avoidance of doubt for anyone not up on their zoology, marsupials are the group of mammals to which kangaroos belong - so it's hard to imagine what else the former minister might have been referring to.

    Jacob Rees-Mogg
  8. Analysis

    How did Johnson do?

    Ione Wells

    Political correspondent, at the hearing

    Boris Johnson before the Privileges Committee

    It was tense, uncomfortable, and not just because the room was swelteringly warm.

    The committee’s grilling didn’t last the full five hours some anticipated, but it was still extensive - and long.

    So how did Johnson do? Well, we won’t know just yet whether or not his evidence was enough to convince MPs that when - as he’s admitted - he misled Parliament, he did not do so intentionally or recklessly, and corrected the record at the earliest opportunity.

    Johnson seemed at his most confident when he was able to draw on facts that suggest rule breaking wouldn’t have been obvious to him - like that official photographers were present at times and that his birthday gathering was briefed to the Times newspaper. He looked more at ease here.

    It got trickier for him when he started having his own social distancing guidance cited back at him.

    The photographic evidence here became difficult for him as he was forced to explain how drinks gatherings demonstrated social distancing being followed “wherever possible.”

    Here he relied mostly on his belief these gatherings were “essential” for work. Will that wash with the committee? We’ll need to wait and see.

    He was most visibly rattled - as were some of the supportive Tory MPs sat behind him - when they grilled him on whether he had adequate assurances that rules were followed, as he claimed to Parliament.

    Many watching at home may have made up their minds already about whether or not they back his defence.

    But it could be a while still before we know how all this has landed with the people who really matter now - the MPs who have his fate in their hands.

  9. What happens next?

    After more than two hours in total of taking evidence from Boris Johnson, the Privileges Committee will now consider the former prime minister's testimony as well as the other evidence it's reviewed over the course of the inquiry.

    The committee is expected to publish its verdict on Johnson by the summer.

    Its findings will conclude whether or not Johnson "deliberately or recklessly" misled the House of Commons and if so whether this was a contempt.

    If the committee finds against Johnson it will recommend what it considers to be the appropriate sanction.

    Then, the whole House of Commons will debate the report and decide whether to accept or reject it before MPs have a free vote on the matter.

  10. Johnson hearing got heated at the end

    Ione Wells

    Political correspondent

    Some of Johnson’s loyal Tory supporters were heckling when the session got particularly heated – including MPs Lia Nici and James Duddridge, who could be heard hearing telling the ex-PM not to "rise" to the MP questioning him.

    The session somewhat crescendoed towards the end – rattling Johnson and his supporters more as it went on.

    When Sir Charles Walker was questioning Johnson on whether or not it was fair that some people had described the committee as a "kangaroo court", Nici piped up again, saying: "He’s not said that" and "It's not for him to say."

  11. Final flurry of questions

    Well, that was a long few hours and a lot to take in. There was a final flurry of questions at the end there, so here's a quick summary of how the session drew to a close.

    Kangaroo court?

    Johnson was asked about attempts by some of his allies to characterise the committee's inquiry as "a kangaroo court".

    He responded that his presence this afternoon and attempts to answer the MPs' questions in detail showed how seriously he took the committee.

    He acknowledged he had raised questions about the "fairness" of the process in his written evidence, but said there should be no "intimidation" or attempt to "bully" the committee.

    'Utterly insane'

    Conservative MP Alberto Costa asked if Johnson accepted the committee could be fair and not a "witch-hunt".

    Johnson said if it found him to be in contempt of Parliament that would be "utterly insane" and not only unfair but also wrong.

    Does he want to correct the record again?

    Chair Harriet Harman asked if Johnson wanted to correct the record instead of maintaining his assertion that all Covid guidance was followed at all times.

    He said it remained his belief that he had genuinely thought that at the time and saw "no reason" to withdraw those comments, which were made based on what he knew.

    But Johnson enjoyed it

    The former PM told Harman he had "much enjoyed" the session which had been a "useful discussion".

  12. Committee meeting is over

    The committee hearing has just ended and Boris Johnson and MPs have filed out of the room.

    Stay with us as we bring you analysis from our correspondents and as we dive deeper into what Johnson said.

  13. 'How on earth could advisers have known rules were always followed?'

    Charles Walker MP asks Johnson about the people he says gave him assurances that Covid rules were not broken.

    Quote Message: How on earth would they have known the rules were being followed all the time - it would've been impossible because you didn't have cameras in every room?" from Charles Walker
    Charles Walker

    Johnson says he had to rely on what people told him and says they were extremely reputable people.

    Walker responds that when you look at the 126 fixed penalty notices handed out to No 10 for rule-breaking, it's clear that those who gave such assurances "clearly had not idea what was going on".

    Johnson says he was very shocked to get his own fixed penalty notice and amazed by the amount of other penalties handed out.

    Asked whether there was a degree of recklessness, Johnson disagrees and says it was his genuine understanding and belief that there were no problems with these events.

  14. Post update

    Tory MP and Privileges Committee member Charles Walker

    Tory MP Charles Walker has begun his questions, opening by asking about Johnson and his allies questioning the legitimacy of the committee's inquiry.

    Walker notes there was no objection to an investigation being launched in the House of Commons - including from Tory MPs - which Johnson acknowledges.

    Walker then moves on to the appointment of Labour's Harriet Harman as chairwoman of the committee, which was also not objected to at the time by anyone.

    Johnson then says he has come before the committee because he trusts they will be impartial.

    Ahead of this session, Johnson accused the committee of being unfair to him in an interim report it released.

  15. Reality Check

    How long did it take Johnson to 'correct the record?'

    One of the key things the committee investigating Boris Johnson is looking at is how long it took him to correct some of his statements to Parliament, which he acknowledges were misleading.

    This is known as "correcting the record".

    Boris Johnson says he corrected the record at "the earliest opportunity at which I could make the necessary correction", which, he says, was after the publication of Sue Gray's report into Downing Street gatherings on 25 May 2022.

    That was almost six months after his statements about Covid rules and guidance being followed "at all times" had been made.

    On 25 May, he said: “I am happy to set on the record now that when I came to this House and said in all sincerity that the rules and guidance had been followed at all times, it was what I believed to be true.”

    But he did not say that his earlier statement had been untrue.

    The committee has questioned why he did not take the opportunity to set out what he knew about gatherings he had attended when asked about them in the Commons before Sue Gray's report was published.

  16. Johnson angered by suggestions he didn't get right advice

    Ione Wells

    Political correspondent

    I'm in the committee room and Boris Johnson has been getting visibly angry when pushed on whether or not he was given proper assurances that no rules had been broken.

    He starts pointing his finger, raising his voice, and saying it's "complete nonsense" to suggest otherwise – arguing his director of the communications at the time, Jack Doyle, gave him a clear account of what had happened.

    There are mutterings here from some of his supporters behind him saying – loud enough for the MPs questioning Johnson to hear – "Don’t rise to him."

  17. You did not take proper advice, Johnson told

    The Privileges Committee
    Image caption: The Privileges Committee

    The MPs on the committee are really pressing Johnson on the fact he didn't seek legal advice before telling the House of Commons that he was assured that no guidance had been broken.

    Bernard Jenkin MP says: "If I was accused of law-breaking and had to give undertakings to the House of Commons of all places that I had not broken the law, I would want the advice of a lawyer.

    "You did not take proper advice," Jenkin says.

    Johnson says he asked senior people for advice including the cabinet secretary.

    "This is complete nonsense," the former PM says.

  18. Covid families group condemns 'new low' for former prime minister

    Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, a campaign group of more than 6,000 people who lost relatives and friends to the virus, says today marks "a new low" for Boris Johnson.

    "It's clear he lied when he said to our faces that he'd done 'all he could' to protect our loved ones, he lied again when he said the rules hadn't been broken in Number 10, and he's lying now when he denies that was the case," says spokesperson Rivka Gottlieb.

    Quote Message: He claims it was 'his job' to say goodbye to colleagues, that he 'would have needed an electric fence' around him to stick to the rules, and that social distancing only applied 'when possible'.
    Quote Message: Did any of this apply when we couldn't be with our loved ones for weeks as they suffered alone in care homes and hospitals, or even be there to hold their hands in their dying moments?" from Rivka Gottlieb Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice
    Rivka GottliebCovid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice
  19. 'A completely ridiculous assessment' - Johnson

    Boris Johnson at the committee hearing

    Johnson is asked why he told the House of Commons that he'd received repeated assurances no rules had been broken. Alberto Costa says Johnson knew what the rules were and the breaches of the rules would've been obvious at the time.

    Johnson tries to interrupt and mutters "that's just nonsense", but he's told by the chair to let the question finish.

    Johnson is asked by Costa if it's a fair assessment to say his reliance on the "purported assurances" he received is being used as a "deflection mechanism" to prevent him having to answer questions about his knowledge of these gatherings.

    "It'd be a completely ridiculous assessment," Johnson responds.

  20. Post update

    The questioning has been focused on the assurances Johnson says he received from officials about gatherings being in line with rules and guidance and who they were.

    This centres on the committee's point that rule breaches should have been "obvious" to Johnson himself, and his response that he relied on advice from top officials, as prime ministers do.

    Johnson makes reference to evidence given by two MPs that they recall a meeting during which the then-PM was advised by top officials that Covid rules were followed.

    Alberto Costa presses Johnson on who these officials were but he says he can't name them.

    Asked why by chairwoman Harriet Harman, Johnson says at least one adviser he can think of has asked not to be named.