Boris Johnson

Fact check: Claims about Boris Johnson’s ‘partygate’ legal fees

The UK parliament backed a report that found Boris Johnson deliberately misled MPs over parties which took place at Downing Street during lockdown. 

MPs voted to support the findings of the report, 354 to seven, which was produced by a cross-party committee looking into Boris Johnson’s statements about the so-called ‘partygate scandal’. 

During the debate before the vote on Monday, various politicians spoke about the former prime minister’s conduct. Labour MP Karl Turner made a claim about who was funding Johnson’s legal costs during the inquiry. 

An ordinary member of the public who earns more than £12,570 does not get legal aid, and often they are facing very difficult legal proceedings. Boris Johnson has earned some £6 million since he left this place, and he has just done a deal with one newspaper for £1 million a year to write a column… People do not understand how it is possible, especially in the circumstances of a cost of living crisis, for the taxpayer to be paying his legal bill.

Karl Turner MP

Ferret Fact Service looked into these claims.

Ferret Fact Service | Scotland's impartial fact check project

“People do not understand how it is possible, especially in the circumstances of a cost of living crisis, for the taxpayer to be paying his legal bill.”

The House of Commons privileges committee launched an investigation into whether Boris Johnson had misled parliament over allegations around the so-called ‘Partygate’ scandal. 

The scandal developed after numerous photos and allegations were made of parties and gatherings that the-then prime minister attended at Number 10 while restrictions on gatherings were in place during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Johnson was accused of intentionally misleading parliament in statements he made to parliament denying events took place and about the nature of the parties in question. On 15 June, the committee found that he misled the House intentionally. Johnson, who had been given advanced sight of the report, resigned as an MP on 9 June. 

Karl Turner’s claim that Boris Johnson had his legal fees paid during the committee’s investigation is accurate. Johnson was called to appear before the committee and give various bits of evidence, including a limited number of WhatsApp messages, and written submissions. 

Johnson was represented by a legal team led by Lord Pannick KC, and his legal bill has been reported as £245,000, which will be covered by the UK Government. 

Ferret Fact Service verdict: True

Boris Johnson’s legal fees are being paid by the UK Government, and has been reported as £245,000.

This claim is True

“An ordinary member of the public who earns more than £12,570 does not get legal aid, and often they are facing very difficult legal proceedings”

Turner contrasted this with the situation regarding legal aid in the UK, claiming that a “member of the public who earns more than £12,570 does not get legal aid”. 

Legal aid rules differ across the UK, and depending on whether it is a criminal or civil case.

There are a number of different factors which determine whether someone is eligible for legal aid, including receipt of benefits, gross income and disposable income.

For civil cases gross monthly earnings should be less than £2,657, with disposable income of no higher than £733 per month. People can also be excluded from legal aid if they have savings or assets worth over £8,000. 

This earnings threshold is higher than £12,570. However, those earning below the threshold are subject to a complex means testing procedure that takes account of various expenses and allowances.

This test determines whether someone qualifies for full legal aid coverage, whether they have to pay a contribution, or are excluded from legal aid completely. 

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly False

Karl Turner’s claim that ordinary people can’t get legal aid if they earn more than £12,570 is not correct in many cases. There is a complex test for those receiving legal aid, which takes into account many factors but the earnings threshold is higher than the figure he cited.

This claim is Mostly False

“Boris Johnson has earned some £6m since he left this place, and he has just done a deal with one newspaper for £1m a year to write a column.”

Boris Johnson’s earnings since leaving as Prime Minister have been regularly reported on. As he was still an MP, he was required to register his outside earnings, with the disclosed amount coming to nearly £5m in March 2023.

His new column in the Daily Mail has been reported by media sources as worth as much as £1m, but Ferret Fact Service has been unable to verify this. 

Karl Turner’s claim that Johnson had earned “some £6m since he left this place” refers to his resignation as prime minister in July 2022. 

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly True

Turner’s claim that Johnson has earned £6m since resigning as Prime Minister is based on publicly disclosed information and widely-cited media reports.

Mostly True

Photo credit: Number 10

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