The veteran Tory MP Charles Walker is expected to be handed a spot on the committee investigating Boris Johnson over claims he misled MPs over Partygate.
A well-respected, long-serving backbencher, who was vice-chair of the 1922 Committee for about a decade, Walker was quietly nominated by the Liz Truss government as the House of Commons went into conference recess.
The hunt has been on for months to find a Conservative MP to fill the spot vacated by Laura Farris, who stepped down from the influential privileges committee over the summer.
There was significant difficulty finding a suitable replacement who had not made previous comments about the breach of Covid laws in Downing Street, and would therefore not spark claims of approaching the inquiry from a biased perspective of wanting to find against or absolve Johnson.
Walker’s name is understood to have been floated for months, and earlier in September he told the Guardian: “One of our colleagues is coming off it and I said as I am leaving parliament at the next general election, I would be willing to do it if there was a shortage of volunteers.”
He was overlooked by Johnson’s administration, which, in its final act, tried to push for the serial objector Christopher Chope to secure the final of four Tory spots on the seven-member committee chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman.
Walker’s appointment will need to be approved when MPs return from recess on 11 October. The investigation into whether Johnson misled MPs by repeatedly denying Covid laws were broken – despite later being fined by police for attending an illegal gathering himself – is still ongoing, even though Johnson is now a backbencher.
A rebuttal to legal advice disparaging the inquiry, commissioned by the Johnson government at a cost of nearly £130,000, was going to be issued when parliament returned after the summer. The response to Lord Pannick was held up by the death of the Queen but is likely to be issued soon.
Some insiders fear that given the huge pressure placed on the committee over the summer, whether it finds Johnson did or did not mislead parliament will be seen as it bowing to pressure from either his arch critics or supporters.