Boris Johnson has been referred to the police by the Cabinet Office after his diary showed friends visiting Chequers – the country house of the prime minister – during the COVID pandemic.
Boris Johnson has hit out at “bizarre and unacceptable” new claims he broke COVID lockdown rules after being referred to the police by the Cabinet Office.
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, as well as new allegations about his behaviour in Downing Street, according to The Times which first reported on the story.
Mr Johnson complained of a “politically motivated stitch-up” after the information was passed onto the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police, saying the events in question were “lawful”.
Sky News understands all legal options are being considered by his team.
His spokesperson said: “The assertion by the Cabinet Office that there have been further COVID rule breaches is totally untrue.
“Lawyers have examined the events in question and advised that they were lawful.
“No contact was made with Mr Johnson before these incorrect allegations were made both to the police and to the privileges committee. This is both bizarre and unacceptable.
“For whatever political purpose, it is plain that a last-ditch attempt is being made to lengthen the privileges committee investigation as it was coming to a conclusion and to undermine Mr Johnson.”
The privileges committee is investigating whether Mr Johnson misled parliament over his partygate denials.
The Cabinet Office said the information was passed on “in line with the civil service code”.
But Mr Johnson’s statement said: “The events in question were all within the rules either because they were held outdoors or came within another lawful exception. They include regular meetings with civil servants and advisers.
“It appears some within government have decided to make unfounded suggestions both to the police and to the privileges committee.
“Many will conclude that this has all the hallmarks of yet another politically motivated stitch-up.”
Mr Johnson’s lawyers have written to the police “to explain in detail why the Cabinet Office is entirely wrong in its assertions”.
Police ‘assessing’ concerns
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”.
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.”