UK PM Johnson seeks to defuse showdown over whether he misled parliament

UK PM Johnson seeks to defuse showdown over whether he misled parliament
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs Downing Street to attend Prime Minister's Questions in London, Britain, 20 April 2022. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

LONDON/AHMEDABAD, India, April 21 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to defuse a parliamentary showdown on Thursday by asking lawmakers to delay a decision on whether he should be investigated over accusations that he misled parliament about breaches of COVID-19 rules.

Johnson apologised to the House of Commons on Tuesday after he was fined by police for breaking lockdown orders, saying he did not know a birthday gathering at the height of the pandemic breached restrictions he had set.

Opposition lawmakers have accused Johnson of repeatedly lying to parliament last year when he said all guidelines had been followed.

Seeking to increase pressure on Johnson to resign, the main opposition Labour Party will call a vote on whether he should be investigated for contempt of parliament by its Committee of Privileges.

Hoping to avert a rebellion in Johnson’s Conservative Party, the government has proposed an amendment that would delay that decision until after a police investigation into the alleged lockdown breaches is completed.

“I’m very keen for every possible form of scrutiny… but all I would say is I don’t think that that should happen until the investigation is completed,” Johnson told reporters during a visit to India on Thursday, adding that lawmakers should have “the full facts” before voting.

Deliberately misleading parliament represents a breach of the ministerial code, and by convention ministers who do so are expected to resign. Johnson has admitted making a mistake but said he had not deliberately misled parliament.

Some of Johnson’s Conservative lawmakers had been uneasy at the prospect of being ordered to oppose greater scrutiny into an issue that has damaged voters’ trust in the government.

However, the amendment reduces the chances of a rebellion by allowing Conservatives to support the idea of an investigation at a later date, without defying their leader.

It is likely to pass because Johnson’s party has a large majority in parliament.

By Alistair Smout and Andrew MacAskill.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout and William James in London and Andrew MacAskill in Ahmedabad, IndiaEditing by Gareth Jones)


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