Partygate hearing could be put back into the New Year after 10 delays

Committee of Privileges inquiry whether boris johnson The public may be misled, delayed until January, as Number 10 finally handed over a cache of Partygate-related evidence four months after it was requested.

The Guardian understands that the autumn deadline for the start of the oral evidence session, in which the former prime minister will be called as a witness, has been abandoned. Instead, sources said that the much-anticipated seasons could be pushed back after Christmas.

The delay has been blamed on the Cabinet Office resisting providing crucial information requested four months ago.

Last Friday, what was described as an “overwhelming body” of documents were handed over to the committee. A variety of information was originally sought in July, including the former prime minister’s diary, event email invitations, No 10 entry logs, briefing papers and WhatsApp messages.

The seven-member committee, which has a Tory majority but is chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman, is expected to investigate whether Johnson misled parliament by denying any Covid laws were broken was.

MPs had hoped to begin hearing oral evidence as early as October, but they are only now beginning to scrutinize evidence submitted by the government. With only three full sitting weeks until the Christmas break, there are doubts about whether all evidence sessions can be completed before the festive break.

Committee members are now debating whether to move the evidence sessions forward into the new year, when there will be more time to examine witnesses.

A source said, “The worst that can happen is that the committee invites a witness and then more evidence comes to light about which we want to cross-examine him.”

MPs on the committee are looking at the evidence line by line and may go back to Number 10 and the Cabinet Office with further requests for information.

A spokesman for the committee said it had been meeting every week the Commons sat since June to “establish procedures, collect and analyze evidence”.

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He added: “The committee is in constant dialogue with the government to obtain evidence for the investigation. It requested the material from the government in July, which was fully supplied last Friday.

The spokesman said MPs were “committed to progressing the investigation expeditiously”.

Guardian revealed Earlier this month the Cabinet Office and Number 10 were refusing to hand over vital information, and redacting details such as pass logs. Some of the initial information provided to the committee is believed to have been edited to the extent that key details were missing, prompting repeated attempts to extract more details.

At the time, government insiders said there was no set date when they were bound to respond to ad hoc requests for information or documents from a select committee.

While the wait for oral evidence sessions continues, lawmakers are considering how to balance the need for transparency to ensure confidence that they are being investigated fairly with the potential need to protect whistleblowers.

Some evidence sessions may be held in private to protect identity, where the committee considers necessary, with the account being written up and released afterwards. Photographers may be banned from some public evidence sessions to avoid disturbing witnesses.

A source said evidence was likely to be taken in long sessions over consecutive days lasting around three weeks.

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