MPs will get the chance to vote on Boris Johnson’s conduct over the partygate scandal on Thursday. When Parliament returned from recess on Tuesday, April 19, the Speaker said he had given permission for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to put forward a motion for debate and a vote.
But what is the vote? What will happen? And what does any of it mean?
For now, we don’t have the exact wording of the motion Labour will put forward but we know it will be whether the Prime Minister misled Parliament in previous remarks he has made in the Commons over partygate. We now know that the Prime Minister has received a fixed penalty notice for attending a party in Downing Street on his birthday on June 19, 2020. His wife, Carrie, and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak are among those who were fined for the same event.
What is the motion?
The exact motion will be filed on Wednesday, ahead of being heard on Thursday, but we expect it will say that MPs refer the matter to the Privileges Committee.
When will it be heard?
It is due to be heard on Thursday and business on Thursday is due to start in the chamber at 9.30am. The Prime Minister will however be on a visit to India and his chancellor Rishi Sunak in the USA so they will both be absent.
What is the Privileges Committee?
It is a Commons committee chaired by Rhondda MP Chris Bryant and its role is to investigate possible breaches of privileges or contempt of parliament. The other members are Andy Carter (Conservative, Warrington South), Alberto Costa (Conservative, South Leicestershire), Laura Farris (Conservative, Newbury), Sir Bernard Jenkin (Conservative, Harwich and North Essex); Allan Dorans (SNP, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock); Yvonne Fovargue (Labour, Makerfield).
If the motion is as we expect, and if the matter is referred, the committee will investigate the matter and report back to the Commons but there’s no set time that should or could take. Depending on its findings and any recommendations, it would be up to all MPs to vote on whether it thinks the Prime Minister is in contempt.
Will the vote pass?
It’s unlikely. The Conservatives have a working majority of 75 in the Commons and no huge rebellion is expected. We’ve also heard a number of Conservative MPs say they will reserve judgement until all the police inquiries are complete and the Sue Gray report is published. Even if the first vote did pass, there would be a second which is also unlikely to pass for the same reasons.
So why bother?
Over to Dr Alice Lilly at the Institute for Government. In a detailed explanation on Twitter, she said there are a “few reasons”.
“Constitutional: it is a fundamental principle that parliament must not be misled, and therefore it is important that MPs can debate whether the believe they have been misled. Political reasons: it keeps the issue in the news, and will force Conservative MPs to put their support for the PM on the record by walking through the division lobbies. Which, you might imagine, will play into campaigning for local elections on May 5…”