As an investigation by the Privileges Committee is added to those of Sue Gray and the Metropolitan Police, John Baron writes that his support of the Prime Minister rests clearly on whether the charge that he misled Parliament is found to be true or not.

It is now almost six months since the allegations of Downing Street parties first emerged. These allegations, which have been increasingly substantiated as the months have gone on, are a Sword of Damocles over the Prime Minister. Yet, it would be wrong to jump to conclusions before all the facts are known. For these reasons, I continue to await the findings of the Metropolitan Police, Sue Gray, and now the Committee on Privileges.

Lots of people do not accept this. They have already decided that the Prime Minister is 'guilty', and that he should either resign or be deposed by Conservative MPs. I fully understand people's anger. At the beginning of the pandemic I lost my own beloved mother to COVID-19. Obeying the rules at the time, none of us were with her when she passed away. As I have made clear to the Prime Minister, I am deeply unhappy at the way people in Downing Street appear to have behaved during the lockdowns. However, there are two issues at hand – the fines in No 10, and whether the Prime Minister deliberately misled Parliament.

As regards the former, I am prepared to accept that everyone can make an honest mistake. The Prime Minister has rightly apologised, paid the required £50 while changes have been made in Number 10. It remains to be seen whether this is the only fine he receives, or the first of many, in which case the situation probably changes and not to his advantage. At the moment, the only people who know the answer are the team at the Metropolitan Police investigating these events, and even they may not yet have reached all their conclusions.

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The most serious charge laid at the feet of the Prime Minister so far is that of deliberately misleading the House. Parliament, though imperfect, is the nation's beating heart and as such its integrity should never be brought into doubt. That Ministers – indeed all MPs – tell the truth in the Commons is one of the bedrock principles of our political system. One has got to have confidence that the statements and answers that are offered are honest and accurate. The rule that MPs can not accuse each other of lying is predicated on the fact that it is assumed to be a redundant accusation.

So far, the jury is out. The scenario the Prime Minister describes of a surprise rendition of 'happy birthday' is perhaps plausible, and perhaps made more plausible by the fact that that senior civil servants – who are usually known for their caution – have apparently also received fines for this event. Indeed, if those attending did think it was a party, it was an odd thing to brief the media about – a description of the events was covered by the Times shortly afterwards and garnered little attention or comment at the time.

In order to get to the truth, I would have voted for the Labour motion on 21st April if there had been a vote. It is right that the Committee on Privileges examines this situation, and that it has the powers to demand documents and photographs to help it come to a conclusion. While accepting it is difficult to ascertain whether the Prime Minister honestly did not think what happened breached the rules, the test of reasonableness will be applied by his colleagues. I am very clear that if the Prime Minister has deliberately misled Parliament, he will no longer have my support.

We should also remember there are very significant factors at play here. Boris Johnson very much won a personal victory at the 2019 General Election, and the Government he leads was returned with a thumping majority of 80. MPs therefore owe it to voters to ensure all facts are considered before overturning the electorate's decision.

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