UK OGN statement: Boris Johnson MP / Committee of Privileges report
On 21 April 2022, the House of Commons passed a motion tabled by the leader of the Labour Party, calling for the then prime minister, Boris Johnson, to be investigated by the Commons Privileges Committee for having potentially misled parliament over ‘partygate’ allegations.
On 9 June 2023, after receiving a draft of the committee’s final report, Boris Johnson announced his resignation as an MP. The committee’s final report, setting out its conclusions and recommendations, was published on 15 June 2023.
Kevin Keith, Chair of the UK Open Government Network, said:
The report by the Committee of Privileges is a shocking indictment of the actions of the former Prime Minister which, as the report states, ‘goes to the very heart of our democracy.’
It states Boris Johnson ‘misled the House on an issue of the greatest importance to the House and to the public, and did so repeatedly.’
In 2021 the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) published a report on upholding standards.
It revealed that over three quarters (76%) of the British public agree that ethical standards in government are important for making democracy work and that over 40% of the public view the standards of conduct of Ministers (41%) and MPs (44%) as low or very low.
As has been demonstrated by the Committee of Privileges, the political system in this country does not belong to one person, one party, or even to one government. It’s ours. A common good that we all have a responsibility to protect and improve.
This report should serve as a catalyst for the government to act, repairing and updating the way standards are maintained and promoted.
This should include responding to the aforementioned CSPL report published over 18 months ago, and which like the 2021 Boardman report and the 2022 Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee report into Greensill Capital, pointed to the need for greater proactive attention to standards to protect the integrity of government.
But also, it should include consideration of engagement with civil society on the development of policy commitments related to standards and integrity in the UK’s next National Action Plan for Open Government. Transparency, accountability and scrutiny are crucial to building and maintaining the public’s trust.