Liberal Democrats are today [Tuesday] tabling a bill to force Boris Johnson to admit to any fines he receives for lockdown breaches – and they calculate the prime minister could be forced to shell out up to £12,300.
Will Boris need “help” in paying any fines? – Owl
In a swift U-turn on Tuesday, Downing Street agreed to inform the media if the PM received a fine as a result of the Metropolitan Police inquiry into 12 social gatherings at No 10. The climbdown came 24 hours after No 10 caved in to pressure over its efforts to keep Sue Gray’s final report into the Partygate affair secret.
But it remains unclear whether the size of any fine will be revealed, and Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson said there was no commitment to publicise penalties for any other ministers, officials or members of the PM’s family.
Scotland Yard is not planning to reveal details of any fines, as this is not normal practice.
Under the Ministerial Disclosure Bill being tabled by Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael and seen by The Independent, any government minister issued with a fixed penalty notice would be required by law to make it public.
Because Covid FPNs can be increased for each subsequent office, Mr Carmichael calculates that Mr Johnson could face a total of £12,300 in fines if police penalise him in relation to six events which he is alleged to have attended.
These include the “bring your own booze” garden party on 20 May 2020 (£100); the celebration of Mr Johnson’s 56th birthday on 19 June (£200); the leaving do for former communications chief Lee Cain on 13 November (£800) and the alleged party to celebrate Dominic Cummings’ departure in the Johnsons’ flat that evening (£1,600).
Later events for which the Lib Dems believe the PM could incur fines are another leaving do on 17 December 2020 (£3,200) and a gathering in Downing Street on the departure of two No 10 private secretaries on 14 January 2021 (£6,400).
At present, there is no legal mechanism to force Mr Johnson to reveal fines if he chooses not to do so. His official spokesperson said he would release information voluntarily because of the “significant public interest” in him.
Mr Carmichael told The Independent that the repeated flip-flops from No 10 showed that the prime minister “holds the British public with deep disdain and is taking them for fools”.
He challenged Tory MPs to back his bill or face accusations that they are assisting Mr Johnson and his ministers in covering up their misdemeanours.
“We’ve never needed a legal mechanism to force ministers to reveal if they’d received fixed penalty notices because we’ve never had a leader as shameless as Boris Johnson,” said Mr Carmichael.
“He not only flouts the laws he asked us all to follow, but then repeatedly lies about it.
“Conservative MPs have no excuse – they know that this man is not fit for public office. They should back my Bill so Boris Johnson is forced to come clean. If Johnson is found to have broken the law and fined by the police, he will surely have no choice but to resign.”
Mr Carmichael has also written to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, calling on them to rule out the possibility of the Prime Minister using taxpayer-funded expenses to pay any potential fines which Boris Johnson receives.