LONDON (AP) — A U.K. parliamentary committee is meeting Monday to conclude its inquiry into whether former Prime Minister Boris Johnson misled lawmakers over parties at his Downing Street office that breached COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
Members of Parliament's Privileges Committee have pledged to continue with the investigation into Johnson’s conduct after he unexpectedly quit as a lawmaker on Friday and angrily accused political opponents of driving him out in a “witch hunt.”
The committee is expected to finalize its highly-anticipated report Monday. British media report that the findings could be published in the coming days.
Ahead of the findings being made public, Johnson, 58, said the Privileges Committee told him he will be sanctioned for misleading Parliament over “partygate,” a series of boozy parties and gatherings in his office that broke strict pandemic restrictions that his government had imposed on the country.
He accused the seven-member committee, which has members from both the governing Conservatives and opposition parties, of bias and called it a “kangaroo court.” In response, the committee said that Johnson “impugned the integrity” of Parliament with his attack.
Johnson's successor, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, backed the parliamentary committee Monday.
“This is a properly set up committee that the House (of Commons) has voted to carry out their work," Sunak's spokesman, Max Blain, said. "The government will in no way traduce or criticize the work of the committee who are doing exactly what Parliament has asked them to do.”
The committee could have suspended Johnson from the House of Commons if he was found to have lied deliberately. A suspension of 10 days or more means that Johnson's constituents in his suburban London seat could petition to oust him and elect a new lawmaker.
While Johnson has quit Parliament and will no longer be affected by any decision to suspend him, the committee could choose to apply other sanctions like barring him from entering Parliament's grounds.
Revelations that Johnson and his staff held office parties, birthday celebrations and “wine time Fridays" in 2020 and 2021, at a time when millions were prohibited from seeing loved ones or even attending family funerals, angered many Britons and added to a string of ethics scandals that spelled his downfall. Johnson resigned as prime minister last summer after a mass exodus of government officials in protest of his leadership.
Police fined him and other senior officials for violating lockdown rules, but Johnson has insisted to lawmakers that he didn't deliberately mislead Parliament over the gatherings.
He has told the committee he “honestly believed” the five events he attended, including a send-off for a staffer and his own surprise birthday party, were “lawful work gatherings” intended to boost morale among overworked staff members coping with a deadly pandemic.