Downing Street today frantically denied ‘stitching up’ Boris Johnson by referring possible Covid breaches to the police.

No10 denied there was any government attempt to sabotage the ex-PM – and insisted ministers were not involved in the decision to send material to detectives. 

Rishi Sunak is only said to have been notified after the referral was made.

Mr Johnson believes he is the victim of a ‘politically motivated stitch up’ after the Whitehall officials flagged fresh concerns about events at Chequers and Downing Street during lockdown.

The information apparently emerged following a review of his official diary carried out by lawyers ahead of the public inquiry into the pandemic response.

Mr Johnson’s office has flatly dismissed claims rules were broken, saying the developments are ‘bizarre and unacceptable’.

‘It appears some within government have decided to make unfounded suggestions both to the police and to the Privileges Committee,’ a statement said.

Downing Street today frantically denied 'stitching up' Boris Johnson (pictured) by referring possible Covid breaches to the police

Downing Street today frantically denied ‘stitching up’ Boris Johnson (pictured) by referring possible Covid breaches to the police

‘Many will conclude that this has all the hallmarks of yet another politically motivated stitch up.’

Friends of Mr Johnson have warned he is ‘seriously considering’ legal action against the Government over the referrals. 

It emerged this afternoon that the ex-premier is ditching government-appointed lawyers representing him in the Covid inquiry.

In a letter to the inquiry chair, he wrote: ‘You may be aware that I am currently instructing new solicitors to represent me in the Inquiry.

‘That process is well underway but is in the hands of the Cabinet Office to agree funding and other practical arrangements. I have no control over the timing of that process.

‘As at today, I am unrepresented and my counsel team have been instructed not to provide me with any advice.’

Asked whether civil servants or ministers are involved in a stitch up, the PM’s official spokesman told reporters: ‘No. I think you have seen details set out by the Cabinet Office on this.

‘To be clear, we have not seen the information or material in question. That would not be right. Nor has the Prime Minister.

‘No 10 and ministers have no involvement in this process and were only made aware after the police had been contacted.’

He added: ‘To be crystal clear, ministers were not involved in the decision at all to refer the information to the police.’

Government sources suggested the information had been unearthed in the ‘normal disclosure processes being conducted by lawyers acting on behalf of the Government Legal Department’.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘The Cabinet Office has not made any assessment or conducted any investigation of the material that has been passed to the police. Ministers played no role in deciding whether the information should be handed over to the police.

‘The police were first contacted on 16 May prior to any minister being made aware. The decision to contact the police and the subsequent decision to share the information was not made by ministers but by officials acting in line with the Civil Service Code.’

The Privileges Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into whether Mr Johnson lied to Parliament about the partygate scandal, has also been informed. That notification was seemingly signed off by ministers.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said earlier that the proper process had been followed and there was ‘no ministerial intervention’.

Mr Chalk told LBC: ‘There is a Covid inquiry taking place. In the course of that, documentation has to be scrubbed or reviewed by lawyers to ensure it can be disclosed in the normal way.

‘Material came to light which was passed to the civil service.

‘The civil service considered that in accordance with their code, and with no ministerial intervention, I want to make that absolutely clear, that was then passed to the police.

‘From the civil service’s point of view, if they sat on it and suppressed it, people would have criticised them. If they passed it on, that will raise questions as well.

‘Ultimately, whether it was the right judgment to do it turns on what’s in those documents.’

Mr Johnson’s office said the ex-premier’s lawyers have written to police to ‘explain in detail why the Cabinet Office is entirely wrong in its assertions’.

It read: ‘No contact was made with Mr Johnson before these incorrect allegations were made both to the police and to the Privileges Committee. This is both bizarre and unacceptable.

‘For whatever political purpose, it is plain that a last-ditch attempt is being made to lengthen the Privileges Committee investigation as it was coming to a conclusion and to undermine Mr Johnson.’

Senior Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Johnson loyalist, told GB News he visited Chequers with his family during the pandemic but the meeting was ‘entirely within the rules’.

He said: ‘I can tell you that during that period I went to Chequers. I was invited there with my children, entirely in accordance with the rules. Another senior government minister was going to come but the prime minister cancelled him because you were only allowed to have one family present at the time.’

Rishi Sunak is only said to have been notified after the referral was made

Rishi Sunak is only said to have been notified after the referral was made

The fallout adds to the problems facing Mr Sunak, who was fined over a gathering in Downing Street during the pandemic along with Mr Johnson in June 2020.

The PM’s press secretary said he had ‘definitely not’ gone to Chequers in breach of coronavirus rules while serving as Chancellor. 

Asked whether Mr Sunak believes the matter has been handled well by the civil service, the No10 spokesman said: ‘It’s not for the Prime Minister to form a judgment. This has been a process the Prime Minister has not been involved in.

‘There are clear obligations regarding civil servants and how they approach these sorts of issues and the Cabinet Office has followed those rules.’

Mr Sunak found out about the matter ‘after all the information had been passed to the police’ and ‘was informed before it was put in the public domain’, the official said.

Post source: Daily mail

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