A senior civil servant questioned Boris Johnson’s plan to say COVID guidance had been followed at all times in Downing Street, according to new evidence published by MPs investigating whether he lied over partygate.
In written evidence from Martin Reynolds, the former principal private secretary to the then prime minister, he said he questioned whether it was “realistic” to make this claim, given the nature of the working environment in No 10.
He said he asked Mr Johnson about the line proposed for PMQs on 7 December, adding: “He did not welcome the interruption but told me that he had received reassurances that the comms event was within the rules.
“I accepted this but questioned whether it was realistic to argue that all guidance had been followed at all times, given the nature of the working environment in No 10.”
Mr Reynolds said Mr Johnson agreed to delete the reference to the guidance.
The evidence has been published ahead of Mr Johnson being questioned by the privileges committee this afternoon on whether he misled parliament over partygate denials.
In another section of the bundle released this morning, a Number 10 official said Mr Johnson “had the opportunity” to shut the partygate gatherings down, but chose to join them instead.
The official, who has not been named in the documents, states the former prime minister was “either invited” to the events by special advisers, or “spotted them whilst walking up to his flat”.
The statement notes that the route Mr Johnson would take included walking down a corridor and looking “straight into the press room and vestibule” – both places where parties were held.
“He had the opportunity to shut them down, but joined in, made speeches, had a drink with staff,” the official’s statement continues.
“He could see what was happening and allowed the culture to continue.”
Ahead of the publication of the documents, a source close to the former prime minister said his team believe they are generally helpful to them.
But they have criticised the fact that not all of the evidence Mr Johnson wanted published has gone into the bundle.
All seven committee members, led by Labour veteran Harriet Harman but with a Tory majority, will use Mr Johnson’s appearance to determine if he deliberately misled the Commons when he told MPs no COVID rules or guidance had been broken.
On the eve of his appearance, the former prime minister repeated his denial that he had not done anything wrong and said he was looking forward to the hearing.
Watch coverage of Boris Johnson giving evidence to Privileges Committee on partygate live on Sky News from 2pm.