UK government seeks to delay bid to trigger contempt probe of PM Johnson

·2-min read
PMQs session at the House of Commons, in London

LONDON (Reuters) -The British government on Wednesday proposed delaying a decision on a possible parliamentary investigation into whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson misled parliament in his initial response to reports that COVID-19 rules were breached in his office.

Johnson on Tuesday apologised to parliament after he was fined by police for breaking lockdown orders, saying he did not know a birthday gathering at the height of the pandemic was in breach of restrictions he had set.

Opposition lawmakers have accused Johnson of repeatedly lying to parliament last year when he said all guidelines had been met.

Lawmakers will on Thursday vote on a motion put forward by the opposition Labour Party which, if passed, would refer Johnson to parliament's Committee of Privileges to consider whether his conduct amounted to a contempt of the House of Commons.

But after unease among some of Johnson's Conservative lawmakers at being ordered to oppose that motion, the government said it had put forward an amendment proposing to delay the decision on whether to refer Johnson for an investigation.

The amendment says that the decision should take place after the police investigation into lockdown breaches has concluded, and a long-awaited report into the matter by a senior civil servant has been published.

A government spokesperson said this would allow lawmakers to "have all the facts at their disposal".

The amendment is likely to pass because the Conservatives have a large majority in parliament.

With the debate, which starts at 1030 GMT, being closely watched to gauge the depth of support Johnson retains among his peers, the amendment reduces the chance of Conservative lawmakers voting against the government by allowing them to support the idea of an investigation but at a later date.

(Reporting by William James and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Kate Holton and Grant McCool)

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