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Boris Johnson orders Tory MPs to delay new Partygate probe until AFTER police inquiry ends

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Boris Johnson pulled the plug on attempts to delay a new parliamentary probe into his Partygate lawbreaking today, just hours after pleading with Tory rebels to ‘let the police do their stuff’ first.

The Government this morning dropped plans to force his MPs to delay a vote on whether to set up a new investigation into parties in Downing Street during lockdown.

After last night ordering them to back the delay on a three-line whip, No10 U-turned to allow them a free vote on a Labour plan to refer the PM to the Privileges Committee for telling the Commons no rules were broken.

It means that the move could go through without a formal vote to set up yet another damaging investigation into the PM, this time over his insistence to MPs that all rules had been followed in the heart of Government. 

It comes as Mr Johnson finds himself 4,000 miles away on a trade mission to India. Just two hours before the Government’s embarrassing U-turn he had defended the delay to broadcasters

Speaking to broadcasters from a JCB factory in Gujarat, he said he wanted to ‘let the investigators (the police) do their stuff’ before a parliamentary probe was started. 

‘I’m very keen for every possible form of scrutiny and the House of Commons can do whatever it wants to do,’ he told reporters in India.

‘But all I would say is I don’t think that should happen until the investigation is completed.’   

But afterwards a senior Government source said: ‘The Prime Minister has always been clear that he’s happy to face whatever inquiries Parliament sees fit and is happy for the House to decide how it wishes to proceed today and therefore will not be whipping Conservative MPs.

‘They are free to vote according to how they believe we should move forward on this.

‘We tabled an amendment last night because we wanted to be explicit about ensuring Sue Gray is able to complete and publish her report without any further delay, as well as allow the Metropolitan Police to conclude their investigations.

‘We now recognise that – in practice – this is almost certainly likely to be the case and therefore we are happy for the Labour motion to go through, if that is the will of the House.’

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: ‘This is humiliating for Conservative MPs who were being pressured to vote for the Government’s cover-up amendment.

‘The Government knew they couldn’t win this, the Prime Minister is bang to rights.

‘Tory MPs should do the right thing, respect the sacrifices that their constituents made during the pandemic, and vote in the national interest.’

Mr Johnson said today that he wanted to'let the investigators (the police) do their stuff' before a parliamentary probe was started. Hours later his Government U-turned

Mr Johnson said today that he wanted to ‘let the investigators (the police) do their stuff’ before a parliamentary probe was started. Hours later his Government U-turned

Boris Johnson vowed last night to lead the Tories into the next election as he arrived in India on a trade mission

Boris Johnson vowed last night to lead the Tories into the next election as he arrived in India on a trade mission

Opening today's Partygate debate in the Commons, Labour leader Keir Starmer attacked Tory loyalist who have defended the PM. He said:'Many...dismiss its importance, they say there are worse crimes, he didn't rob a bank, he only broke the rules for 10 minutes, it was all a long time ago. Every time one of these arguments is trotted out the status of this House is eroded.'

Opening today’s Partygate debate in the Commons, Labour leader Keir Starmer attacked Tory loyalist who have defended the PM. He said: ‘Many…dismiss its importance, they say there are worse crimes, he didn’t rob a bank, he only broke the rules for 10 minutes, it was all a long time ago. Every time one of these arguments is trotted out the status of this House is eroded.’

Mr Johnson used his trip to India to visit a factory owned by JCB - which is run by millionaire Tory donor Lord Bamford

Mr Johnson used his trip to India to visit a factory owned by JCB – which is run by millionaire Tory donor Lord Bamford

Speaking to reporters on a flight to India, he said he would'of course' contest the national poll in 2024 and suggested voters now wanted politicians to focus on'the issues that matter' such as the economy'

Speaking to reporters on a flight to India, he said he would ‘of course’ contest the national poll in 2024 and suggested voters now wanted politicians to focus on ‘the issues that matter’ such as the economy’ 

While the Prime Minister is 4,000 miles away on a two-day visit to India, opposition parties will attempt to launch an inquiry into whether he misled the Commons over raucous drinking events in Downing Street.

 While the Prime Minister is 4,000 miles away on a two-day visit to India, opposition parties will attempt to launch an inquiry into whether he misled the Commons over raucous drinking events in Downing Street.

Boris Johnson has refused to resign over Partygate, and was forced to abandon plans to delay a new investigation into his actions last night

Boris Johnson has refused to resign over Partygate, and was forced to abandon plans to delay a new investigation into his actions last night

Boris Johnson fears Ukraine peace talks are doomed 

Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine are doomed, Boris Johnson warned reporters in India last night.

The Prime Minister said it is ‘very hard’ to see how Kyiv can negotiate with President Vladimir Putin given his ‘lack of good faith’.

‘How can you negotiate with a crocodile when it’s got your leg in its jaws?’ Mr Johnson asked.

Talks between Ukraine and Russia have stalled – with each side blaming the other for the breakdown.

Kyiv and Moscow have not held face-to-face talks since March 29, and Ukraine’s lead negotiator said this week it was hard to predict when they would resume because of Russia’s siege of Mariupol.

Tonight Mr Johnson also expressed his fears that there will not be a negotiated resolution to the conflict.

Speaking to reporters as he flew to India for a two-day diplomatic trip, he said: ‘It’s very hard to see how they can negotiate with Putin now given his manifest lack of good faith.’ 

Labour had organised a vote due this afternoon on referring Mr Johnson to the privileges committee over allegations he misled the Commons over raucous drinking events in Downing Street.

It has powers to request private information and determine whether the PM was lying when he told MPs no rules were broken.

He was among dozens of people handed £50 fines last week after having been found by police to have broken lockdown laws.  

But late last night No10 launched a wrecking amendment, promising MPs a vote on an investigation but attempting to delay it until after the police probe has ended. 

While many Tory MPs have publicly backed Mr Johnson this week, reports suggested whips were worried that enough quiet critics on the backbenches could abstain in the main vote to allow it to pass.

The amendment was covered by a three-line whip, meaning Tories face disciplinary action if they refuse to back it. 

Has it succeeded in kicking the can down the road, it would also also rob Labour and the Liberal Democrats of ammunition before the local elections on May 5, when they were planning to highlight MPs’ support for a lawbreaking Prime Minister.

However, it risked the Government having to hold a potentially difficult vote some weeks or months down the line when Mr Johnson may have received further fines and face more criticism over issues like the cost-of-living crisis. 

Opening today’s Partygate debate in the Commons, Labour leader Keir Starmer attacked Tory loyalist who have defended the PM. He said: ‘Many…dismiss its importance, they say there are worse crimes, he didn’t rob a bank, he only broke the rules for 10 minutes, it was all a long time ago. Every time one of these arguments is trotted out the status of this House is eroded.’ 

Mr Johnson last night mounted a bullish defence of his actions. Speaking to reporters on a flight to India, he said he would ‘of course’ lead the Tories into the next general election, expected in 2024. 

He also suggested voters now wanted politicians to focus on ‘the issues that matter’ such as the economy.’

Pressed on whether there were no circumstances under which he would consider resigning, Mr Johnson said: ‘Not a lot that spring to mind at the moment.

‘But if you want to sketch some out I’m sure you could entertain your viewers with some imaginary circumstances in which I might have to resign, but I don’t propose to go into them, I can’t think of them right now.

‘What the people of this country want is for the Conservative Government to get on with the job, and in particular get on with attracting jobs to this country.’ 

Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi said he expected Tory MPs to support the Government amendment to delay a decision on whether to launch a Privileges Committee inquiry into Boris Johnson’s conduct.

The Education Secretary told Sky News that ‘due process’ had to be followed, allowing the police investigation to conclude and senior official Sue Gray’s report to be released before MPs consider whether to refer Mr Johnson to the committee.

He said: ‘If you want to play politics with this, the shenanigans that Labour are attempting today is the route. If you want to follow due process then you allow the police to do their investigation, you allow the Sue Gray report to be published and then the Privileges Committee can look at that.’

Mr Zahawi added: ‘Most of my colleagues who are fair minded, who believe in due process, will vote for the amendment because it is the right thing to do.’

Mr Johnson’s aides are braced for him to receive multiple fixed penalty notices, having already been handed one for the gathering for his 56th birthday.

He is thought to have been at six of the 12 events under investigation by Scotland Yard.

When MPs vote on Thursday, Conservatives will be urged to back the amendment to delay making a decision on whether to launch an inquiry until all other investigations finish. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (second left) in the House of Commons where he made a statement to MPs following the announcement that he is among the 50-plus people fined so far as part of the Metropolitan Police probe into Covid breaches in Government

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (second left) in the House of Commons where he made a statement to MPs following the announcement that he is among the 50-plus people fined so far as part of the Metropolitan Police probe into Covid breaches in Government

Rules may be eased for Indian migrants to fill UK’s IT job shortage 

Boris Johnson opened the door last night to easing immigration rules with India, saying that the UK is short of ‘hundreds of thousands’ of IT experts.

The Government is aiming to secure a free trade agreement (FTA) with India by the end of 2022 – and the PM signalled a relaxation of immigration rules could be part of it.

‘We are aiming for an FTA by the end of the year,’ Mr Johnson said. ‘On immigration I’ve always been in favour of having people coming to this country.

‘We have a massive shortage in the UK, not least in experts in IT and programmers. We need to have a professional approach but it has to be controlled.’

He made the comments as he flew to India, where he will today hail a new era in the UK and India’s trade relationship.

He will confirm more than £1billion in new investments and export deals, creating 11,000 jobs across the UK.

Mr Johnson sought to justify the position, which comes after Tory MP Craig Whittaker called for him to refer himself to an investigation to end the saga. 

Asked why he will not submit himself to an inquiry if he has nothing to hide, Mr Johnson said: ‘I think the best thing is if the investigation is concluded. 

‘There’s a police investigation that has not concluded. We have to wait for that and then for Sue Gray to have her final say.’

Pressed if he would back one after that point, he said: ‘I think we need to wait and see where it gets.’

A Labour source said: ‘Tory whips obviously knew that they couldn’t vote this down.

‘They clearly haven’t learnt a thing from the mess they got into over Owen Paterson.

‘Boris Johnson is trying to rig the rules to deflect from his own law breaking. Any Tory MP who votes for (the amendment) is voting for a cover up.’

Former Conservative minister Andrew Mitchell suggested on Wednesday evening that the PM could be referred to the Privileges Committee without a vote.

He told ITV’s Peston programme: ‘I don’t think there will be a vote tomorrow. I think the House of Commons will agree to refer it to the Privileges Committee.

‘I shan’t be there – quite a lot of my colleagues are heading off either tonight or tomorrow morning to their constituency. We expect this matter to be referred to the Privileges Committee, and I think the Government will go along with it.

‘After all, if you look down the years, references to the Privileges Committee have normally gone through on the nod.’

A Labour source claimed that any Conservative supporting the amendment would be ‘voting for a cover up’. 

Mr Johnson told MPs an alleged party to celebrate the departure of Dominic Cummings (pictured) was actually a meeting to find his replacement

Mr Johnson told MPs an alleged party to celebrate the departure of Dominic Cummings (pictured) was actually a meeting to find his replacement

The Prime Minister could receive a second fine from police over the event which was held when Mr Cummings quite after losing a power struggle with Mr Johnson's wife, Carrie (pictured)

The Prime Minister could receive a second fine from police over the event which was held when Mr Cummings quite after losing a power struggle with Mr Johnson’s wife, Carrie (pictured)

A Government spokeswoman said: ‘The Government has tabled an amendment to Labour’s motion which says that consideration of this matter should take place after the conclusion of the police investigation, and the publication of the Cabinet Office report, allowing MPs to have all the facts at their disposal.’ 

Tories were facing pressure to back the opposition bid for a parliamentary investigation after Mr Johnson was fined by police over a birthday event in 2020.

The intervention came as it emerged he has told Tory MPs that an alleged party to celebrate the departure of Dominic Cummings was actually a ‘council of war’ to discuss his replacement.

An event in Mr Johnson’s Downing St flat on November 13, 2020 – the day Mr Cummings quit after losing a power struggle with Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie – is one of 12 under investigation.

Mrs Johnson is said to have held a ‘victory party’ to celebrate the chief aide’s departure. 

Officials are reported to have told Miss Gray that music and dancing were heard from the Prime Minister’s flat.

But Tory sources said Mr Johnson described the gathering as a ‘work event’ when answering questions from Tory MPs behind closed doors.

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