Boris Johnson: Taxpayers’ bill for Partygate defence set to soar as MPs make ‘site visit’ to No 10

Boris Johnson’s legal defence fees for the upcoming Partygate, covered by the taxpayer, are expected to soar again as the government prepares to extend the contract.

Adam Forrest

The taxpayer is already set to contribute more than £222,000 in legal fees for the former PM as he faces a grilling over whether he lied to parliament on Covid parties.

But the government contract with legal firm is to be renewed again before expiring 28 February, upping the bill by another five-figure sum, according to The Guardian.

It comes as it emerged investigating MPs on the privilege committee made a “site visit” to No 10 to see where rule-breaking parties were held during the pandemic.

The committee led by senior Labour MP Harriet Harman wanted to get a sense of the layout in the building to better understand how the gatherings happened, ITV reported.

MPs have not yet set a date for the public hearings for the Partygate, which is trying to establish whether Mr Johnson misled the Commons about what he knew of illicit gatherings.

But the televised sessions are expected to begin sometime in March. Mr Johnson denies misleading MPs – recently telling his staunch ally Nadine Dorries that anyone who suspects he deliberately covered up lockdown parties was “out of their mind”.

The decision to give so much taxpayers’ money to cover Mr Johnson’s legal fees for the is being looked into by officials at the National Audit Office (NAO).

The NAO has not yet decided to launch a formal investigation, but a letter last month revealed one of the spending watchdog’s top officials will speak to the Cabinet Office about the matter.

Solicitors firm Peters and Peters was awarded a contract worth £129,700 in August to provide Mr Johnson with advice during the investigation. An extension of the contract, costing another £90,000, was approved in December.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said voters “will be justly outraged at the prospect of having to foot the bill yet again for Boris Johnson’s Partygate defence fund”, adding: “Rishi Sunak is showing once again that he’s too weak to put a stop to it.”

Mr Johnson has been accused of “treachery” after intervening on the Northern Ireland Protocol row and other issues, with ex-Tory Chancellor George Osborne claiming the ex-PM wants to “bring down” Mr Sunak and return to No 10.

The former Tory leader will “100 per cent” condemn any agreement reached in the coming days if he feels it means closer alignment with the EU, allies have said. Mr Johnson has made known that dropping the unilateral protocol bill would be a “great mistake”.

He is one of 57 Tory MPs who has signed a letter urging Mr Sunak to boost nuclear energy capacity. He and the group want to see two more large-scale projects before the next general election.