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‘No question’ of PM quitting, regardless of demands for him to go, says minister

Written by on 22 April 2022

Boris Johnson has met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi as an investigation into whether he misled parliament about lockdown-busting Downing Street parties looms.

The prime minister will try to progress UK-India trade talks with Mr Modi, emphasising the importance of the partnership between the two nations for global peace and security.

He is also expected to discuss a new co-operation on clean and renewable energy in the hope of supporting India’s transition away from imported oil.

Politics hub: PM to face fresh partygate investigation

It comes after it was confirmed that the PM will face a parliamentary investigation into whether he misled MPs when he denied lockdown rules were broken across Downing Street and Whitehall.

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 4:06 Prime Minister Boris Johnson will face a parliamentary investigation into whether he misled MPs over partygate

Committee to examine whether PM lied to parliament

Some Conservatives have joined opposition parties in publicly calling for Mr Johnson to quit.

But Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns told Sky News: “There is no question of the Prime Minister going.”

Mr Burns said he did not believe that Mr Johnson had lied, adding: “I believe that when the full facts are seen, when the context comes out, that it will be clear that the prime minister, every time that he came to parliament, was faithful and genuine and true in what he believed.

“The prime minister told the House what he believed to be the truth in good faith at each stage and when there has been a development subsequent to that, new information, he has corrected the record.”

Mr Burns said that “multiple inquiries” into partygate meant it would be “the most looked at event possibly since the Second World War” – and that the PM was “looking forward to drawing this to a conclusion”.

On Thursday, MPs backed a Labour-led motion calling for the Privileges Committee to investigate Mr Johnson’s conduct.

The motion was nodded through without a vote.

Conservative MPs had earlier been ordered to back a government attempt to delay the vote until inquiries by the Met Police and civil servant Sue Gray have concluded.

In a late reversal shortly before the debate began amid widespread reports that numerous Tory MPs may rebel against the government, Commons Leader Mark Spencer said Conservative MPs could vote however they wanted on Labour’s motion.

And in a blow to Mr Johnson, former minister Steve Baker, an influential Conservative MP, earlier said the prime minister “should be long gone”.

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Speaking in the House of Commons, Steve Baker praised Boris Johnson for taking the UK out of the EU and beating Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party. However he said it is now time for the prime minister to resign after breaking the law. 1:06 Steve Baker urged Boris Johnson to resign

Conservative MPs call for Johnson to go

Meanwhile, fellow Conservative MP and Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee chairman William Wragg confirmed he had submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership.

“I cannot reconcile myself to the prime minister’s continued leadership of our country and the Conservative Party,” he told MPs in a scathing Commons speech.

Lord Barwell, former chief of staff to Theresa May – Mr Johnson’s predecessor in Downing Street – told Sky News that it all showed the mood among Tory MPs “isn’t quite as supportive of the PM as maybe some people were having us believe two or three days ago”.

He said that the comments from Mr Baker, a key figure in Mrs May’s downfall, were also very significant, adding: “If I was still doing my old job in Number 10, I would be very worried about that intervention yesterday.”

Speaking to Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby in India, the prime minister insisted he had “absolutely nothing, frankly, to hide” when trying to explain his decision to drop the government’s amendment to the Labour motion.

“People were saying it looks like we are trying to stop stuff. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want people to be able say that,” Mr Johnson said.

Meanwhile, responding to Mr Baker’s call for him to quit, the PM added: “I understand people’s feelings. I don’t think that is the right thing to do.”

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Boris Johnson Beth Rigby Interviews 1:08 Boris Johnson says he has ‘nothing to hide’ on partygate..

The investigation will not fully begin until the conclusion of the Metropolitan Police’s inquiry into 12 events and the Privileges Committee will determine whether the PM is in contempt of parliament for misleading MPs with his repeated denials of parties in Downing Street.

On Thursday, the Met confirmed that they will not issue any further partygate updates before the May local elections.

Scotland Yard told Sky News that the investigation would carry on and officers would continue recommending fines – but the force will not put out media notices on referrals until after 5 May.

But Number 10 has pledged to confirm if the prime minister or cabinet secretary receive any fines before next month’s elections.

So far, more than 50 fines have been issued in relation to the lockdown-breaking parties in Westminster.

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Last week the prime minister, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie Johnson were all issued fixed-penalty notices for attending an event to mark the prime minister’s 56th birthday.

The prime minister is thought to have been at more of the 12 events under investigation by Scotland Yard.

The PM has faced persistent calls to resign over partygate and apologised to MPs this week in a performance high on contrition.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Sunak said he is “extremely and sincerely sorry” for the upset he caused by attending the rule-breaching gathering.

Speaking in Washington ahead of an IMF meeting, Mr Sunak apologised for the “hurt and the anger” he had caused over his partygate fine and said he had “always acted in good faith” when discussing the matter in parliament.

The prime minister missed the debate in the Commons on his conduct on Thursday as he began his two-day official visit to India.

On Friday, Mr Johnson will discuss next-generation defence and security collaboration with Mr Modi across land, sea, air, space and cyber – including support for new Indian-designed and built fighter jets.

Read more: What are the Met Police investigating regarding partygate?

The UK will issue an Open General Export Licence to India – reducing bureaucracy and shortening delivery times for defence procurement.

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Boris Johnson meets Indian PM Narendra Modi 1:27 The two world leaders are expected to discuss UK-India trade and how India can move away from Russian dependency.

A virtual Hydrogen Science and Innovation hub will also be launched to accelerate green hydrogen.

Ahead of his meeting with the Indian PM, Mr Johnson said: “The world faces growing threats from autocratic states which seek to undermine democracy, choke off free and fair trade and trample on sovereignty.

“The UK’s partnership with India is a beacon in these stormy seas. Our collaboration on the issues that matter to both our countries, from climate change to energy security and defence, is of vital importance as we look to the future.

“I look forward to discussing these issues with Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi today and working together to deliver a more secure and prosperous future for both our peoples.”