Boris Johnson has sworn “hand on heart” that he did not lie to the House of Commons, at a high stakes hearing.
The former prime minister is being interrogated by seven MPs in an event that has the potential to end his political career.
Harriet Harman, chair of the committee, has rejected Johnson’s demand that the inquiry only considers his discussion of Covid guidance.
Johnson swore on the King James Bible to tell the truth before issuing an apology and adding “hand on heart, I did not lie to the House”.
He went on: “When those statements were made, they were made in good faith and on the basis on what I honestly knew and believed at the time.”
Johnson said if it was so “obvious” that rule-breaking was going on in No.10, then it would also have been “obvious” to others, including Rishi Sunak.
The privileges committee is scrutinising the former prime minister over statements he made to MPs about the partygate scandal.
At the heart of their investigation is whether or not Johnson “misled” the House of Commons about what had gone on in Downing Street.
Who Is On The Privileges Committee?
Harriet Harman – Labour [chair]
Yvonne Fovargue – Labour
Andy Carter – Conservative
Sir Charles Walker – Conservative
Alberto Costa – Conservative
Sir Bernard Jenkin – Conservative
Allan Dorans – SNP
The committee’s job is to look into claims MPs have committed contempt of parliament, including misleading the House.
During some of his initial remarks on Wednesday, Johnson accused Harman of having said in the past things that are “prejudicial” to his case.
He also argued the process had been “manifestly unfair” and said if the inquiry is accusing him of lying, then it is also levelling the same charge at civil servants, advisers and MPs.
If the committee decides Johnson did mislead MPs – and the Commons backs suspending him for 10 days or more – he could face a by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.
However, there is a long process to get through before the saga potentially reaches that stage.
Yesterday Johnson submitted his so-called “defence dossier” – a 52 page document his team claimed will exonerate him.
In it Johnson accepted that he misled MPs but insisted his partygate denials were made “in good faith” based on what he “honestly” knew at the time.
The committee, meanwhile, released a 110-page pack of messages and evidence on Wednesday morning.
It revealed the allegations of one No.10 official who claimed that Boris Johnson had the opportunity to “shut down” lockdown parties but joined in instead.