UNITED KINGDOM: The contentious decision to spend £220,000 of taxpayer money to support Boris Johnson’s legal defence in the investigation into his Partygate denials is being investigated by officials at the government’s spending watchdog.
Even though one of its directors plans to talk to the Cabinet Office about it, the National Audit Office (NAO) has yet to decide if it will start a formal investigation.
Sources say that the former prime minister’s lawyer may need more money than the six-figure sum that had already been set aside because the privileges committee probe could go on for another month.
Johnson has engaged Peters & Peters’ legal counsel since beginning the privileges committee’s probe last summer to defend himself. The Cabinet Office approved an initial £129,000 contract for that service in August 2022.
The seven-member committee, which has a Conservative majority but a Labour chair, has been waiting longer than expected for the government to provide information. The contract has been extended until February 28, and the budget has increased to £220,000.
Former Liberal Democrat MP and Unlock Democracy director Tom Brake wrote to the NAO to inquire about whether it was within its purview to look into whether the expenditure had been a “sensible and legitimate use of public money.”
According to sources, the budget of £220,000 for Johnson’s legal counsel may be increased once more because the contract expires on February 28, and the privileges committee has not yet finished gathering all oral testimony, started holding public hearings, or begun producing its report.
As the privileges committee continues to probe into Johnson’s denials from the dispatch box that any COVID regulations were broken before confirmation of the law-breaking parties came from Scotland Yard, Johnson stated on Wednesday that he was being “respectful” of it.
He granted a rare interview to the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, one of his most ardent fans, for the new TalkTV program she would host.
Johnson’s salary has increased dramatically after leaving No. 10 due to his joining the lecture circuit, receiving an advance for his memoirs, and participating in other trips and publications. In addition to his MP pay, he has reported earnings of £2,296,905 since October 2022.
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