Rishi Sunak has pledged to give Tory MPs freedom to decide Boris Johnson’s fate before grilling live over whether he lied about Partygate.
The prime minister said on Monday he would not put pressure on his Conservative colleagues to rest his predecessor amid the threat of a possible suspension.
Mr Johnson is due to appear on television before the Privilege Committee sometime next week so he can be questioned on whether he deliberately misled the Commons.
If the cross-party group of MPs govern, they could recommend a suspension that could eventually lead to a by-election for Mr Johnson in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.
But speaking to ITV News during a visit to San Diego, Mr Sunak insisted he would not try to sway Conservatives on the committee not to impose a major sentence.
“That would not be right,” said Mr. Sunak.
Asked if he was concerned that a suspension of more than 10 days could trigger a by-election, Mr Sunak added: “This is a matter for Parliament, the House of Representatives.
“It’s not right for the government to get involved.”
In an interim report, the committee said the evidence strongly suggests breaches of the coronavirus rules would have been “obvious” to Mr Johnson during the Partygate saga.
They are investigating at least four cases where he may have deliberately misled MPs with his denials.
But Mr Johnson, who was fined by the Metropolitan Police for breaking his own Covid laws, has denied lying to the House and says he expects to be acquitted.
The committee will publish its findings and make a recommendation on punishment, but it will ultimately be up to the full House of Commons to decide whether to authorize a decision on Mr Johnson’s fate.
Mr Sunak also defended his predecessor’s massive earnings outside of Parliament, as analysis of official statements suggest Mr Johnson has earned £4.8million, mostly since leaving No10.
The Prime Minister told Sky News: “There are many different ways MPs combine what they do in Parliament with the other things they follow. It is right that there is balance in that.”
He said there are guidelines from Parliament and “it is right that they are being followed”.
A contrast has been drawn between his outspoken criticism of Matt Hancock for flying into the Australian jungle to appear on I’m A Celebrity and his defense of the former Tory leader.
Mr Sunak said: “There’s a difference between not being physically able to do your job in the UK when you’re abroad for a long period of time and being able to do all the things on the side. I think most people will appreciate that there is a difference.”