Orris Johnson will give a “robust defence” of his actions but his fate will ultimately be in the hands of MPs, a Cabinet minister has said.
The former prime minister will hand a written dossier of evidence to MPs before a public hearing on Wednesday as he tries to clear his name over allegations of misleading parliament over the Partygate scandal.
He will testify before the Privileges Committee as he fights to save his political career.
Oliver Dowden, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, told Sky News on Sunday: “I’m sure Boris Johnson will give his strongest defense and then the committee will determine the outcome.”
Asked if there would be a free vote for Conservative MPs if the committee recommended sanctions, Mr Dowden said it was “standard practice” in House affairs.
“I’m not sure if the final decisions have been made but that will be the example we hope to follow,” he said.
In an interim report, the Privileges Committee said the evidence strongly suggested that the breach of coronavirus rules at No 10 should have been “obvious” to Mr Johnson.
They are examining evidence surrounding at least four occasions when he may have deliberately misled MPs by assuring the Commons that the rules had been followed.
Mr Johnson’s aides said he would provide a “comprehensive and compelling” account to the committee ahead of his appearance, showing he had not “deliberately misled the House”.
The Sunday Times reported that he will point to a series of previously anonymous WhatsApp messages from senior civil servants and members of his No.10 team that show he relied on their advice when giving his statements to Parliament.
He will also publish messages which show other senior Downing Street figures that the gatherings were covered by a “workplace exemption” to the lockdown rules.
The committee’s inquiry is being chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman, although the seven-strong panel has a Tory majority.
The committee will publish its findings on whether Mr Johnson is in contempt of Parliament or recommend any punishment, but the final decision rests with the full House of Commons.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he will not try to influence MPs on the committee and has indicated he will give Tory MPs an independent vote on any approval he may recommend.
A suspension of 10 sitting days or more for Mr Johnson could eventually lead to a by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat, which he held in 2019 with a majority of 7,210.