Partygate: MPs urge Boris Johnson to pay own legal fees as taxpayers face £245,000 bill
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Boris Johnson has been urged to pay his own Partygate legal fees by MPs as taxpayers face a hefty £245,000 bill. Labour MP Karl Turner has tabled a motion saying it is "inappropriate" for taxpayers to foot the bill, urging the House of Commons to step in.
The £245k legal fees are being used by Mr Johnson’s defence as part of the Privileges Committee’s probe into the Partygate scandal, which is investigating whether he deliberately misled Parliament.
If the committee, made up of four Conservative MPs, two Labour and one SNP, finds the former PM misled parliament, he could face a suspension or even be forced to fight for his place as an MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip through a by-election. Mr Johnson denies the allegation.
Current prime minister Rishi Sunak has faced calls to intervene and make Mr Johnson cough up the fees himself. Labour MP Mr Turner has put forward an early day motion which points out the former PM has earned a fortune since he stepped down from the role in September 2022.
According to The Mirror, the motion says it is "unacceptable that taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill, not least given that the Rt hon. Member has earned a reported £5 million since he stepped down as prime minister".
The Labour MP also pointed out that members of the public are not automatically entitled to legal aid if they earn over £12,475. His motion adds it is "inappropriate for public funds to be used in this manner, not least during a cost of living crisis in which most families are struggling to manage".
Mr Turner has urged MPs to condemn Mr Johnson for requesting public funds for his legal costs, adding that cases like this shouldn’t happen again.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner added: “This murky arrangement that left taxpayers’ picking up the bill for Boris Johnson’s partygate defence fund is not only without precedent but without justification.
"With working families facing a cost-of-living crisis, it beggars’ belief that they should have been left writing a blank cheque for these legal retainers as the ex-Prime Minister further enriches himself.”
In August 2022, solicitors firm Peters and Peters were awarded a contract worth £129,700 to provide the former PM with advice during the investigation.
By January 2023, the cost of the contract rose to £220,000. This prompted Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to tell Mr Sunak during PMQs: "Surely even this Prime Minister can put his foot down and stand up to his old boss and say he made this mess, he can pick up the bill?"
Mr Sunak responded to the Labour leader, accusing him of "carping from the sidelines" and "failing to lead".
In March 2023, Mr Johnson faced the Commons Privileges Committee as he gave evidence on whether he misled parliament about the Covid-19 rule breaking parties during the pandemic. This included when he told parliament he had "been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken". A verdict is yet to be announced.