Parliamentary probe into UK PM Boris Johnson 'wrong in principle' - govt legal advice

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits EDF's Sizewell Nuclear power station

LONDON (Reuters) - An investigation into whether British Prime Minister Boris Johnson misled parliament is proposing an unfair approach in conducting the probe which is wrong in principle, legal advice to the government said on Friday.

Parliament's Privileges Committee is looking into whether Johnson, who is due to resign next week after his party ousted him over a series of scandals, obstructed parliament with comments on COVID-19 lockdown-breaking events in Downing Street.

If the committee finds he had misled parliament, Johnson could be suspended from the House of Commons, which could in turn trigger a so-called by-election for his seat, or electoral district.

"In our opinion, the Committee is proposing to adopt an approach to the substantive issues which is wrong in principle in important respects, and the Committee is also proposing to adopt an unfair procedure," said lawyers David Pannick and Jason Pobjoy, who were asked to advise Johnson.

They cited parliamentary privilege, which protect debates in the House of Commons from legal challenges, and said the committee had failed to prove contempt against Johnson, meaning that he intended to mislead lawmakers.

They also said it was "unfair procedure" to not tell Johnson the identity of the witnesses, tell him the detail of the case or allow him to be represented at any hearing.

Some Johnson supporters have called the investigation a "witch hunt" against the prime minister, who has said he will return to the so-called backbenches in parliament next week and support his successor who will be announced on Monday.

(Reporting by William James and Elizabeth Piper; editing by Jonathan Oatis)