The Conservative MP Christopher Chope has been tipped to join the committee investigating claims Boris Johnson misled parliament about his knowledge of Covid law-breaking parties, sources have told the Guardian.
[The Times reports that the nomination was made by Boris Johnson as a parting shot of his premiership.]
Aubrey Allegretti www.theguardian.com
Chope would replace Laura Farris, who announced over the summer that she was stepping down from the body that scrutinises complaints about MPs’ behaviour.
The nomination would need to be passed by the Commons in order for him to be appointed to the privileges committee.
Normally, the vote is done as a “nod or nothing” – meaning that if there was one dissenting voice, it would fall.
Chope’s appointment is likely to prove controversial given his history of blocking laws, including attempts to outlaw “upskirting”.
A source said he was well versed in parliamentary procedure. Chope also sat for two years on the privileges committee from October 2017 until November 2019.
The government did not respond to a request for comment.
Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, told the Guardian: “Chris Chope is not a man I would rely on to be on the standards committee. He tried to derail legislation that would criminalise taking pictures up women’s skirts. Why would anyone think he was appropriate?
“Frankly the Conservatives’ attempt to force him on to the committee shows that no matter who their leader is they will always rely on their mates to get them out of upholding the standards that the country would expect. Same old Tories.”
Chope’s nomination would be one of the final acts of Johnson’s administration, which has rallied against the investigation into his repeated denials that any rules were broken during lockdown.
Several of Johnson’s allies have called the inquiry a “witch-hunt”. The prime minister also recently used taxpayers’ money to commission legal advice costing £130,000 that disparaged the privileges committee.
The Partygate inquiry will not investigate the extent of rule-breaking, which has already been examined by the Metropolitan police, who issued more than 100 fines, including to Johnson himself, and by the senior civil servant Sue Gray.
The seven-member committee, which has a Tory majority but is chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman, is instead expected to investigate whether Johnson misled parliament by denying any Covid laws were broken.
The investigation was set up after MPs passed a motion in April.
The committee can recommend a punishment for those it finds to have broken Commons rules, including ordering a written apology, suspension or expulsion. However, in order for the sanction to be imposed, MPs must vote for it.
The committee has vowed to continue investigating Johnson after he leaves Downing Street on Tuesday.
Evidence requested by the committee so far includes WhatsApp messages, photos and diary entries.