Boris Johnson Says He is Taking 'Full Responsibility' for 'Partygate'
11:49 GMT 25.05.2022 (Updated: 14:47 GMT 25.05.2022)
PM Boris Johnson's latest apologies came after the release of Sue Gray's report into alleged boozy socialising after hours by his staff at Number 10. Police have already issued 83 fines over the breaches of restrictions, including one to Johnson himself.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken "full responsibility" for partying at Downing Street during the COVID lockdown — but justified allowing staff to let off steam.
In a statement to Parliament following Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Johnson responded to the publication of senior civil servant Sue Gray's long-awaited report into the 'Partygate' affair.
He denied deliberately misleading Parliament when he said he was unaware of rule-breaking at his office — which would call for his resignation under the Ministerial Code of conduct — insisting that he had believed the leaving parties and other social gatherings he attended at the seat of government were legitimate workplace events.
The PM thanked Gray for her report and repeated his earlier apologies to the nation for the scandal.
"I take full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch," Johnson said. "Sue Gray's report has emphasised that it is up to the political leadership to take ultimate responsibility, and of course I do."
But he added that it was an "opportunity" to "set out the context" of the events.
To jeers from the opposition benches, he stressed that the pandemic restrictions were only found to have been broken on eight occasions over a period of about 600 days, in a building where hundreds of staff work.
"I had no knowledge of those subsequent proceedings because I simply wasn't there," he claimed. "I have been as surprised and disappointed as anyone else in this house as the revelations have unfolded, and frankly, Mr Speaker, I have been appalled by some of the behaviour."
But he insisted that he had never knowingly misled Parliament, saying that the staff leaving parties he attended were within the rules.
"I would like to correct the record, to take this opportunity, not in any sense to absolve myself of responsibility which I take and have always taken" Johnson said to laughter from some MPs, "but simply to explain why I spoke as I did in this house."
The PM also denied last-minute media reports that he had asked Gray not to publish her findings.
Opposition Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer was the first to attack Johnson, urging Conservative backbenchers to trigger an internal leadership contest.
"When people are working very hard together, day in, day out, it can be difficult to draw the boundary between work and socialising," Johnson responded, dubbing the opposition leader "Sir Beer Korma" over his own alleged lockdown rule-breaking