Former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday faced questions from a committee investigating whether he misled Parliament when he denied social distancing rules were broken at several parties hosted at his former office and residence in Downing Street during the COVID-19 lockdown.
He insisted he “did not lie” to the House of Commons, Britain's lower house of parliament, about ‘partygate’ — as it has been dubbed by the press —revelations of which ultimately led to his resignation as premier last year.
If the committee finds Johnson intentionally misled Parliament he could face suspension from the House of Commons, an event that could in turn force a by-election in his constituency where he remains an MP.
The inquiry, which is being live-streamed, is still under way.
In a 52-page dossier published on Tuesday, Johnson repeatedly denied that his attendance at several of the lockdown gatherings were of any consequence. He previously claimed there was nothing wrong with the events, but an inquiry and police investigation found they violated pandemic rules put in place by the former prime minister’s own government.
Johnson acknowledged in the document that an investigation into the parties found that rules were in fact breached. He also accepted that he “misled” parliament but stressed he did not do so “intentionally” or “recklessly.”
At the televised committee inquiry on Wednesday Johnson was shown a photo from a leaving party for an employee at 10 Downing Street in November 2020, which depicts the former prime minister surrounded by staff in close proximity.
When asked about his response to the evidence, Johnson said staff couldn't have an “invisible electrified fence around them” while working, but accepted that “perfect” social distancing guidelines weren’t observed.