Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has argued that the prime minister has not misled Parliament over lockdown gatherings in No 10 and Whitehall.
This afternoon Johnson will face MPs for the first time since his fine for breaching Covid laws.
Quizzed over the matter by Sky News’ Breakfast programme he stressed: “He [Boris Johnson] hasn’t misled Parliament. He has outlined to Parliament what he believes to be the case and the truth at the point.
“He has equally, quite rightly, apologised for what has happened, accepted the position the police have taken and paid the fine.”
Opposition MPs have accused Johnson of misleading Parliament following his 1 December comments that “all guidance was followed completely in No 10”.
Lewis claimed that “The point he [Johnson] made to Parliament, when he spoke to Parliament, he was speaking what he believed to be the truth and what he outlined to be the truth.
“That is absolutely right and proper.
“As he said last week, he absolutely accepts [that] the police have found that the rules were broken to a point that they issued a fine… that is why he has paid the fine and he has outlined that he accepts that.”
“Actually, I think, the prime minister has answered that … he’s already outlined to parliament that his view was with the workplace situation that rules hadn’t been broken.
“It’s not that he didn’t think they applied to No 10… he accepts that the police have taken a view and he’s apologised and paid the fine. The prime minister took the view that he was in a workplace environment, the same view that the Labour leader took when he had his pizza and beer.”
Senior Conservative Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the treasurer of the 1922 Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that: “To force the prime minister out and have instability at the top of government for at least two months, as I know as treasurer of the 1922 when we re-selected a successor to Theresa May, I think would be not in the country’s interests”. His comments echo the public attitude of many Conservative MPs since last week’s revelations, with those calling for the PM to step down in the minority.
Labour are reportedly considering two paths to push a formal investigation into Johnson’s remarks. One option would involve a Commons’ motion to refer Johnson to a privilege committee probe. The second path would be to urge a Commons vote on a motion of censure. However the pressure of Conservative whips on Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to reject calls for such a vote, plus the reluctance of Conservative MPs to oust Johnson, would mean the probable failure of both paths as it stands.