Witnesses are now being contacted to submit evidence to the partygate investigation into whether Boris Johnson misled parliament over what he knew.
In April 2022, it was announced the cross-party Privileges Committee would investigate the then prime minister once the Met Police’s inquiry into lockdown breaking parties at Downing Street and the publication of the Gray Report were completed.
Witnesses are now being contacted by the committee to submit written evidence by 7 February, ahead of later oral evidence, to help the committee determine whether the PM misled the Commons in his remarks on partygate.
In December 2021, Mr Johnson was asked in the Commons whether there was a party in Downing Street on 13 November 2020, to which he replied: “No.
“But I’m sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.”
Sir Keir Starmer also asked him about the parties, with Mr Johnson telling the Commons: “All guidance was followed completely in Number 10.”
In June 2022, the Privileges Committee announced it had held its first meeting on the inquiry and issued a call for evidence.
Those involved in the parties, or with direct knowledge of them, were told they had until 29 July to submit evidence and oral evidence sessions were expected to take place in the autumn.
But this was delayed, with the Cabinet Office blamed for resisting the request for key information in July last year.
A committee spokesman, confirming the new call for evidence, told Sky News: “The committee has sent letters to individuals who may have knowledge relevant to the present inquiry regarding Boris Johnson MP, requiring them to provide evidence in writing.
“The committee requires the written evidence to be submitted by Tuesday 7th February.
“All written evidence submissions must be accompanied by a statement of truth.
“The committee may have further requests to make for additional information.”
Photos, diaries and WhatsApp messages
The Privileges Committee is made up of four Conservative MPs, two Labour and one SNP, with the chair being Labour MP Harriet Harman.
Evidence the committee has the power to call for includes documents or photographs taken at the various Downing Street events under investigation.
It can also demand oral evidence from Mr Johnson and call for his diaries, WhatsApp messages and briefing papers.
The committee said witnesses will be able to remain anonymous but the chair and committee staff will need to know who they are.
Sir Ernest Ryder, a former Appeal Court judge, has been appointed as an expert adviser to the inquiry.
What ramifications could the findings have for Mr Johnson?
Once the committee has concluded its investigation, it will decide whether it believes Mr Johnson deliberately misled parliament – and therefore committed contempt.
They can recommend what kind of sanction he should face, which all MPs will then have to vote on.
A range of sanctions could be recommended, including Mr Johnson being suspended for a number of days.
A suspension of 10 sitting days or more could trigger a petition to Mr Johnson’s constituents for a by-election.
The ministerial code is explicit that knowingly misleading parliament is a resignation matter, but it remains up to the prime minister to enforce the code.