What is the privilege committee? Meet the MPs who will decide Boris Johnson’s fate | News

As a result of yesterday’s vote the privileges committee will investigate Boris Johnson after the Metropolitan Police has finished its inquiry into parties in No 10 and Sue Gray has published her report.

The committee has existed in some form since the 17th century with a remit to cover the behavior of MPs in the chamber. It has the same membership as the standards committee, which rules on MPs’ conduct outside the chamber. It is typically less prominent than the standards committee, but now it, and its members, are centre-stage.

Chris Bryant, Labor (chairman)
Bryant, 60, a minister under Gordon Brown, was elected to chair the committee in 2020. Because of his vociferous criticism of Johnson over No 10 parties, he has recused himself from this inquiry.

Yvonne Fovargue, Labor
Fovargue, 65, has been an MP since 2010 and held frontbench roles under Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn, but quit the latter to vote against a second Brexit referendum.

Allan Dorans, SNP
Dorans, 66, narrowly won his seat from the Tories in 2019. His background in the Metropolitan Police in the 1970s and 1980s may serve him well in this inquiry.

Sir Bernard Jenkin, Conservative
Jenkin, a 63-year-old veteran, is chairman of the Commons liaison committee, which questions the prime minister about his government every few months. When Johnson appointed him to that role there was some concern that it would erode the independence of the committee, but Jenkin has insisted on his independence from him and recently criticized Johnson for making the newspaper proprietor Evgeny Lebedev a peer.

He will be loyal to the Tories, but that is not necessarily the same thing as being loyal to Johnson.

Laura Farris, Conservative
The daughter and niece of Tory MPs, Farris, 43, was a journalist and a barrister before her election in 2019 in the safe Tory seat of Newbury. A self-professed One Nation Tory, she is a parliamentary aid to Liz Truss, the foreign secretary. As an aid to a minister she would be expected by No 10 to be loyal, but if Johnson was forced out Truss would be one of the favorites to succeed him.

Andy CarterConservative
Carter, 48, was also first elected in 2019. He was put in an awkward position when Tory MPs were whipped to overturn the committee’s verdict that the former minister Owen Paterson had broken lobbying rules. Carter stood by the committee’s ruling and the government’s position collapsed. He has demonstrated his independence from him, and No 10 will be nervous about his stance from him this time

Alberto Costa, Conservative
A former government lawyer, Costa, 50, was elected in 2015. His campaign for the rights of EU citizens living in Britain after Brexit cost him his job as a government aid under Theresa May. He is now an aid to Suella Braverman, the attorney-general. No 10 will hope Costa — an MP on the foothills of a ministerial career — will give Johnson the benefit of the doubt, but the lawyer in him could make that difficult.


What is the significance of yesterday’s events?
The most obvious consequence is that Labor has succeeded in its attempt to open yet another investigation into Boris Johnson and lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street. This time it is a parliamentary inquiry into whether the prime minister knowingly misled the House when he claimed he was unaware of illegal events taking place in No 10. It will be able to call witnesses and demand evidence, including more than 300 photographs that have been handed over to police, as well as what evidence the prime minister relied on when he told MPs he had been assured that all rules were followed. At the end of this it will decide whether MPs should vote to hold the prime minister in contempt of parliament.

Who will carry out this new parliamentary investigation?
It will be overseen by the Commons privileges committee, made up of seven MPs: four Tories, two Labor and one SNP. Chris Bryant, the chairman and a Labor MP, has announced he will recuse himself from the investigation as he has previously accused Johnson of misleading the House on the parties.

If the Tories have a majority on the committee doesn’t that mean they will just clear Johnson?
Not necessarily. Most parliamentary committees try to work on the basis of consensus, with their findings endorsed by all members of the group.

How long will the investigation take?
The Labor motion makes clear that the committee should not begin its “substantive” investigation until after the police investigation is complete. Add to this the summer parliamentary recess, from July 22 until September 6, and it could mean that it is well into autumn before the committee’s investigation concludes.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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