- By Becky Morton and Chris Mason
- BBC Politics
Former ministers Nadine Dorries and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg have been accused of waging a co-ordinated campaign to interfere with a Commons investigation into Boris Johnson.
The ex-PM quit as an MP after a committee found he misled Parliament over Covid breaches at No 10.
In a new report, the committee accused the allies of Mr Johnson of mounting “vociferous attacks” on its work.
Other Tories criticised include Dame Priti Patel and Lord Zac Goldsmith.
The former home secretary and current Foreign Office minister are among seven MPs and three peers identified as attacking the committee.
The others were Tory MPs Mark Jenkinson, Sir Michael Fabricant, Brendan Clarke-Smith and Dame Andrea Jenkyns and peers Lord Cruddas and Lord Greenhalgh.
The report, by the cross-party Privileges Committee, said “unprecedented and co-ordinated pressure” was placed on committee members, which although it did not affect the outcome of the inquiry, raised significant security concerns.
It said comments on social media and TV amounted to a “co-ordinated campaign to interfere with the work of the committee”.
The committee said it was particularly concerned by attacks mounted by experienced politicians, including Lord Goldsmith, Sir Jacob and Ms Dorries.
It added that two of the individuals mounting “the most vociferous attacks” used their own TV shows as a platform to do so.
Ms Dorries hosts a show on TalkTV, while Sir Jacob has one on GB News.
The report highlighted comments made by Ms Dorries on TalkTV, when she described the committee as a “kangaroo court”, as well as Sir Jacob calling it “a political committee against Boris Johnson” on GB News.
It also referenced tweets by Mr Jenkinson and Mr Clarke-Smith, who said there had been a “witch hunt” against Mr Johnson.
An email campaign instigated by the Conservative Post website, urging Tory MPs on the committee to stand aside and describing the investigation as “deeply flawed, biased and unfair”, was highlighted in the report as an example of “selective pressure” on committee members.
Lord Cruddas said it was “factually incorrect” that the emails came from the peers.
The CDO is a vocal supporter of Mr Johnson and grew out of the unsuccessful campaign to give Tory members a vote on reinstating him after he resigned as prime minister.
The report said it would be for the House of Commons to consider what further action, if any, should be taken. It will be debated by MPs on Monday 10 July.
Sir Jacob has previously defended his actions, saying it was “perfectly reasonable” for MPs to challenge the findings of the committee.
Mr Clarke-Smith said he was “shocked and disappointed” to be named in the report, adding that it raised “serious questions about free speech”.
Mr Jenkinson and Sir Michael also defended their previous comments about the investigation.
The committee’s report said free speech was “at the heart of parliamentary democracy” but some politicians had interfered with disciplinary proceedings set up by the Commons in an “unacceptable” way.
It suggested abuse of committee members could deter others from serving on the committee in the future.
The row prompts a big debate at Westminster – the tussle between freedom of expression and the capacity of a committee of MPs to examine the conduct of a colleague without feeling their own integrity is being questioned by doing so.
In short, the committee is pleading for MPs to be responsible in the manner and tone of their criticisms, with some wondering who would want to serve on the committee in the future if they felt they would face such an onslaught again.
Others say privately it is ridiculous to limit the capacity of MPs to criticise fellow MPs, pointing out the committee is not and should not be treated like a court of law.
Labour’s shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to “personally condemn” the MPs named in the report and accept the committees conclusions.
Commons leader Penny Mordaunt said the fact a debate had been scheduled on the report showed “how seriously the government takes these matters”.
She added that it was “vital” that MPs were prepared to serve on the Privileges committee.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats said Lord Goldsmith should be sacked as a government minister.
The Lib Dems also pointed out that four of the individuals named in the report – Dame Priti, Sir Jacob, Sir Michael and Dame Andrea – had recently been put forward for honours by Mr Johnson.
It called for an investigation into whether there was any “collusion” between Mr Johnson and the MPs – and to commit to revoking their honours if there was.
Mr Johnson announced he was resigning as an MP days before the committee published its initial findings, branding the investigation a “kangaroo court”.
The year-long inquiry found Mr Johnson made multiple deliberately misleading statements to Parliament about lockdown parties at Downing Street.
It ruled he should have been suspended for 90 days had he remained in the Commons.
The sanction, which was lengthy by recent standards, would likely have triggered a by-election in Mr Johnson’s constituency.
The cross-party privileges committee has seven members, four of which are Tory MPs, two are Labour and one is from the Scottish National Party.