Behaviour criticised

Gray’s report accuses Downing St of ‘serious failures’

Number 10
Boris Johnson faces criticism over the parties in Downing St

Civil servant Sue Gray’s report on the Downing Street parties has highlighted a “serious failure” at the heart of government.

Ms Gray’s damning assessment of the series of celebratory events while the rest of the country observed strict lockdown rules notes that “when the Government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify.”

In the six-page report, plus annexes, she has admitted that following a police request not to divulge some information during their investigation she was “extremely limited” in what she could publish.

However, she said she wanted to publish more details once Scotland Yard has completed its work.

Her interim report revealed that 12 events held in Number 10 and across Whitehall are now subject to formal police investigations. 

They include Boris Johnson’s birthday party in the PM’s Downing Street flat and Number 10’s Christmas party on 18 December 2020. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed MPs on the report, but he is said to be confident that his backbenchers will continue to support him.

In a statement to the Commons he vowed to learn from Ms Gray’s initial findings, saying: “I get it and I will fix it.”

“I am sorry for the things we simply didn’t get right and also sorry for the way this matter has been handled,” he said, as he promised a shake-up of the way Downing Street is run.”

He leaves the country for Ukraine tomorrow as part of a diplomatic mission to ease tensions with Russia and this may help divert attention from the scandal over the parties.

A summary of Ms Gray’s findings are that:

– At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time. 

– At times it seems there was too little thought given to what was happening across the country in considering the appropriateness of some of these gatherings, the risks they presented to public health and how they might appear to the public. There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times. Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did. 

– The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time. Steps must be taken to ensure that every Government Department has a clear and robust policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace. 

– The use of the garden at No 10 Downing Street should be primarily for the Prime Minister and the private residents of No 10 and No 11 Downing Street. During the pandemic it was often used as an extension of the workplace as a more covid secure means of holding group meetings in a ventilated space. This was a sensible measure that staff appreciated, but the garden was also used for gatherings without clear authorisation or oversight. This was not appropriate. Any official access to the space, including for meetings, should be by invitation only and in a controlled environment.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: :”The Prime Minister repeatedly told the House that all guidance were followed at all time.

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“We now know that 12 cases, 12 cases, have reached the threshold for criminal investigation – which I remind the House means that there is evidence of serious and flagrant breaches of lockdown, including the party on 20 May 2020, which we know the PM attended, and the party on the 13 November 2020 in the PM’s flat. There can be no doubt the Prime Minister is now under criminal investigation.

“The PM must keep his promise to publish Sue Gray’s report in full when it is available, but it is already clear that the report discloses the most damning conclusion possible.”

SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford said: “Boris Johnson’s position is now completely untenable. The Prime Minister is guilty of breaking lockdown rules and misleading parliament. He must resign – or be removed from office.”

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