Parliament’s Committee of Privileges will investigate whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson knowingly misled Parliament – historically a resigning offence if proven.

Johnson has insisted he is not going anywhere and intends to fight the next general election.
Johnson has insisted he is not going anywhere and intends to fight the next general election. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced stinging criticism from his own Conservative MPs and the embarrassing prospect of a probe into whether he lied to parliament over the "Partygate" scandal.

Lawmakers on Thursday agreed to launch an investigation by a parliamentary committee into his past denials to the House of Commons of breaking lockdown rules in Downing Street that caused widespread public anger.

Under the code for ministers, misleading parliament is ordinarily a resigning matter but a bullish Johnson, on a two-day trip to India, insisted he was not going anywhere and intended to fight the next general election – still likely at least two years away.

The investigation by parliament's privileges committee will begin once London police have finished their own probe and an internal report on the scandal is published in full.

During a debate before the vote, several members of Johnson's Conservative party broke ranks to lambast his behaviour and indicated he no longer had their support.

The signs of a growing rebellion came after Johnson last week became the first British leader to be fined for breaking the law, as police confirmed they had issued dozens of penalty notices to his staff.

READ MORE: Johnson apologises for 'partygate' as critics prep censure bid

‘Contempt of the House’

Thursday's call for a cross-party probe into whether Johnson's previous "Partygate" denials amounted to "contempt of the House" came from the main opposition Labour party and was billed as a test of Conservative loyalty to him.

In an abrupt U-turn minutes before the debate began, his government abandoned a bid to force Tory MPs to delay a decision on the matter.

The committee has the power to sanction lawmakers found guilty of offences, including suspending them from parliament.

Tory lawmakers appeared spooked at warnings opposition parties would name and shame them ahead of the local elections if they blocked the probe.

Johnson repeatedly denied in parliament that he or his staff had breached his own lockdown laws, even as his government urged the public not to mix, leaving families unable to visit loved ones stricken with the virus or even attend their funerals.

But the fines issued in recent weeks have severely undermined his past claims.

Johnson's single fine is related to an office gathering for his birthday in June 2020, when Britain was under lockdown. Further penalties for other events could follow but police said Thursday they will not announce any new fines issued until after local elections on May 5.

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Source: AFP