Boris Johnson to face MPs in Commons as Gray report loomson January 26, 2022 at 3:18 am

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Civil servant Sue Gray’s report is said to be largely complete and is expected to be published soon.

UK PM Boris Johnson

Image source, Getty Images

Boris Johnson faces more questions about No 10 parties from MPs later, as the results of an internal inquiry into possible lockdown breaches are due.

It is understood the highly-anticipated report, by senior official Sue Gray, is largely complete and could be published as early as Wednesday.

But it is not expected to be revealed ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions at noon.

It comes after the Met Police announced its own investigation on Tuesday.

Commissioner Cressida Dick said the force was looking into potential breaches of Covid laws at a number of events in government buildings since 2020.

The police probe heaps further pressure on the PM, after weeks of headlines about gatherings in Downing Street when laws preventing social mixing were in place.

The PM has apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” event on 20 May 2020, during the first lockdown, saying he thought it was a “work event”.

Fresh allegations of a birthday party being held for the prime minister in June 2020 have also come to light.

Some Conservative MPs have called openly for Mr Johnson to resign over the party allegations – but ministers have urged others to wait for Ms Gray’s findings.

Many Tories are waiting on her report before deciding whether to submit letters of no confidence in Mr Johnson, potentially triggering a leadership contest.

At least 54 must write to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, to set up a vote of confidence in the prime minister.

Mr Johnson has already pledged to make a statement in the Commons after the report is made public. There has been no official confirmation of when it will be published.

Labour has urged the government to give MPs enough time to digest the report before any statement, with copies issued well in advance.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “The government will behave entirely properly in terms of any statement, and the usual courtesies are extended to the opposition.”

He said the cabinet was in “unanimous support” of the prime minister, because “anyone who did not support the prime minister would be obligated to resign”.

Also speaking to BBC Newsnight, shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said the prime minister’s attitude towards the allegations of parties during lockdown had undermined his authority.

Ms Thornberry said Boris Johnson “knew all along that he had been involved in many, many parties” and had “covered up and kept covering up”.

She added that “he doesn’t have the authority to lead” on issues such as the cost of living crisis or Russian threats to Ukraine.

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Analysis box by Laura Kuenssberg, political editor

Sue Gray is keen, I’m told, that the inquiry is published in its entirety with no summary, or redactions which could blur or mask some of its more pointed information.

The report is said to be full and frank, and is not expected to be easy reading either for the government, or the civil service itself.

It’s understood that there has been no shortage of evidence, with photographs and Whatsapp messages passed to her.

Much of that evidence has over recent days been passed to the police, explaining why the Met concluded on Tuesday that it was important for them to publicly announce that they would also investigate.

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Dame Cressida has not said which gatherings are being investigated by police, and while breaches of regulations could result in fixed penalty notices, the Met’s inquiry does not mean they will be issued “in every instance and to every person involved”.

She said it would “not normally be a proportionate use of time” for the force to look into rule flouting as far back as two years ago, but such investigations were carried out in cases of the “most serious and flagrant breach” of regulations, or when it was considered those involved “ought to have known that what they were doing was an offence”.

Mr Johnson said on Tuesday that he welcomed the investigation, as it would “give the public the clarity it needs” over the allegations.

His spokesman said the PM did not believe he had broken the law.

Timeline: The alleged government gatherings

The government is facing mounting pressure over several events that are alleged to have been held during lockdowns. Here is what we know about them and the restrictions in place at the time:

10 May 2020

Boris Johnson announced a plan to take the “first careful steps” out of the lockdown that began in March 2020. But he said people should continue to “obey the rules on social distancing and to enforce those rules we will increase the fines for the small minority who break them”.

Legal restrictions at the time said you could not leave your house without a reasonable excuse and government guidance was that you could meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor setting while exercising.

15 May 2020

A photo from May 2020 showed the prime minister and his staff with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard in the Downing Street garden. When asked about it, Boris Johnson said, “those people were at work talking about work”.

20 May 2020

About 100 people were invited by email to “socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden” on behalf of the prime minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds.

Witnesses told the BBC the PM and his wife were among about 30 people who attended.

Boris Johnson has confirmed he attended the event, saying he was there for 25 minutes and “believed implicitly that this was a work event”.

19 June 2020

On Boris Johnson’s birthday, up to 30 people gathered in the Cabinet Room at No 10 to present the prime minister with a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday, according to a report by ITV News.

No 10 said staff had “gathered briefly” to “wish the prime minister a happy birthday”, adding that he had been there “for less than 10 minutes”.

Rules at the time banned most indoor gatherings involving more than two people.

17 July 2020

Boris Johnson announced plans for a “significant return to normality” in England by Christmas “through targeted, local action” instead of national lockdowns.

But he added that the timetable relied on “every one of us staying alert and acting responsibly”.

5 November 2020

With cases of coronavirus rising again, the prime minister told people in England that “we are once again asking you to stay at home” as a new national lockdown began.

He said people should only leave their homes “for work if you can’t work from home, for education, and for essential activities and emergencies”. Indoor gatherings with other households were banned, unless they were for work purposes.

13 November 2020

Sources told the BBC that Downing Street staff members attended a gathering with Carrie Johnson in the flat where she and the prime minister live. A spokesman for Mrs Johnson denies the party took place.

27 November 2020

A leaving event was held for No 10 aide, Cleo Watson, where people were drinking, and Mr Johnson made a speech, according to sources.

2 December 2020

The second national lockdown ended after four weeks but Boris Johnson replaced those restrictions with “tough tiers to keep this virus down”.

London was placed in tier two, which banned two or more people from different households from meeting indoors, unless “reasonably necessary” for work purposes.

10 December 2020

The Department for Education has confirmed it had an office gathering to thank staff for their work during the pandemic. It says drinks and snacks were brought by those who attended and no outside guests or support staff were invited.

14 December 2020

The Conservative Party has admitted that an “unauthorised gathering” took place at its HQ in Westminster. It was held by the team of the party’s London-mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey, who has since stepped down as chair of the London Assembly police and crime committee. The Metropolitan Police is to speak to two people who attended the party.

The gathering at the Conservative Party headquarters was described as ‘raucous’

15 December 2020

Multiple sources have told the BBC there was a Christmas quiz for No 10 staff last year. A photo – published by the Sunday Mirror – showed Boris Johnson taking part and sitting between two colleagues in No 10. Mr Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Johnson was pictured in the No 10 library under a portrait of Margaret Thatcher

16 December 2020

London moved into the highest tier of restrictions and Matt Hancock, who was health secretary at the time, said it was important “everyone is cautious” ahead of the festive period.

The Department for Transport apologised after confirming reports of a party in its offices that day, calling it “inappropriate” and an “error of judgment” by staff.

17 December 2020

A leaving party was held at the Cabinet Office for the outgoing head of the civil service Covid taskforce – the team responsible for drawing up coronavirus restrictions.

Kate Josephs, now chief executive of Sheffield City Council, apologised for the event, saying she was “truly sorry that I did this and for the anger that people will feel as a result”.

18 December 2020

Downing Street originally denied a report by the Daily Mirror that a party took place in Downing Street.

However, a video obtained by ITV News showed the prime minister’s then-press secretary Allegra Stratton, joking about reports of an event, saying: “This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced.”

12 April 2021

Lockdown restrictions were eased in England, with pubs and restaurants allowed to reopen with outdoor service only.

However, working from home continued to be recommended and socialising indoors with people from other households was not allowed. Meeting others outdoors was limited to groups of six people or two households.

16 April 2021

Two parties were held by Downing Street staff at No 10, the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.

One of the events was a leaving party for the PM’s then director of communications James Slack, who has apologised for the event and acknowledged it “should not have happened at the time that it did”.

Boris Johnson was not at either party.

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