Boris Johnson: Report on Downing Street Parties to Be Published in 'Full'
08:39 GMT 28.01.2022 (Updated: 08:50 GMT 28.01.2022)
© AP Photo / Justin TallisBritain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson samples an Isle of Harris gin as he visits a UK Food and Drinks market, set up in Downing Street, London, Tuesday Nov. 30, 2021
© AP Photo / Justin Tallis
Boris Johnson, who has been rejecting calls to step down amid the “partygate” row, vowed in parliament that he would return to the Commons to make a full statement once civil servant Sue Gray’s probe into a series of alleged lockdown-busting gatherings at his Downing Street office and residence had been published.
Amid calls for Boris Johnson not to “suppress crucial details” of the Cabinet Office report into the so-called “partygate” scandal, the UK Prime Minister has insisted he would publish it “in full” once it is released.
Asked during a visit to North Wales whether he planned to delay the release of the findings, Johnson replied:
“Absolutely not. But you've got to let the independent inquiry go on." Pressed further on whether he would publish the Gray report in its entirety, the PM said "of course".
"I can't go beyond what I said yesterday, but I stick to what I said to the House of Commons," added Johnson.
Earlier in the month, the PM had apologised in the Commons for “misjudgements” made, rejected calls to quit, and told parliament to wait for the Cabinet Office inquiry into alleged lockdown violations in 2020 and 2021 at Downing Street and other government buildings.
He also vowed to make a full statement in parliament in the wake of the report.
Anticipation is believed to have reached fever pitch as many suggest Johnson might face an imminent leadership challenge in the wake of the publication of the report.
However, while initial reports hinted that Gray’s inquiry might wrap up this week, now officials in the Cabinet Office are believed to be wrangling over the final version of the findings, reported The Guardian.
Whitehall sources have been cited as fearing that the Sue Gray report could be watered down following the Metropolitan Police decision to launch a criminal probe.
25 January 2022, 10:08 GMT
Findings of the Cabinet Office probe had earlier been transferred to the Met, prompting Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to announce on 25 January that a formal investigation was being launched into claims that lockdown laws had been violated.
“I can confirm that the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations," Cressida Dick, the head of the Metropolitan Police, had told a Greater London Assembly meeting.
Government sources have rejected claims they are delaying the release of the report. It is being suggested that the Metropolitan police’s discussions with the Cabinet Office are the reason for the hold up.
While Scotland Yard has not formally objected to full publication of the Gray report, added insiders, they suggested the Met is now reluctant for the report to be released in full to avoid bringing to light information which could be prejudicial to their investigation.
“I know there were reports that the Met were fine for it to be published, but that proved not to be the case. Indeed, it’s the opposite,” a source was cited by the Daily Mail as saying.
According to sources cited by the outlet, government lawyers have been instructed to pore over the document amid concerns that publishing some specific aspects of Gray’s probe results could prejudice the Metropolitan Police investigation.
Gray, the second permanent secretary at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, is reportedly hoping to send a report that could be published immediately by No 10, without need for any redactions.
The police had been earlier reluctant to initiate a probe into the scandal. Dame Cressida Dick emphasised it would “not normally be” a proportionate use of resources to investigate COVID-19 breaches. However, such investigations were carried out for “the most serious and flagrant type of breach” where unless action was taken it would “undermine the legitimacy of the law.”
While there has not been an official statement from the Met, former chief superintendent Dal Babu was cited by Sky News as saying:
“It is not a judge-led inquiry, she doesn’t have any specific powers to call people to give evidence. So her report will be no different to a human resources report.”
Some Tories believe the report will not be released until early next week.
The developments come as UK Attorney General Suella Braverman was seen leaving Downing Street following reports that Downing Street staff implicated in the “partygate” row could be facing fines. The police were suggested as having have a list of people who attended the alleged lockdown-busting gatherings, with rule violators likely to be slapped with fiscal penalties of up to £100, reported The Telegraph.
Furthermore, senior figures suspected of attending the parties, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, may face police interviews.
‘Time For the Truth’
In anticipation of the Cabinet Office report, concerns have been raised over the handling of the findings, according to the outlet.
“The report must be published in full. Any attempt to conceal or suppress crucial details would be wrong,” said senior backbencher Mark Harper.
One Tory MP was cited as fearing that Boris Johnson would “wriggle out of the scrutiny he deserves once again”.
The UK Labour Party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, emphasized in a letter to the PM that it “would be unconscionable that after the public has sacrificed so much in our collective effort against this pandemic, you would allow any obstruction of the truth or any unnecessary delay to the publication of this report”.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, insisted that photos, emails and messages linked with the Gray probe should also be released. He added that “any attempt to whitewash this matter or spike this report or to start to hide again” would trigger more backlash, and would be a “bitter insult to the public, especially to the bereaved.”
26 January 2022, 05:49 GMT
Boris Johnson has faced multiple calls to step down over the “partygate” scandal – something he has adamantly refused to do.
Some Tory MPs are believed to be waiting for the Gray report before deciding whether to submit letters calling on Johnson to stand down.
54 letters need to be submitted to the 1922 Committee chair, Graham Brady, to trigger a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister.