Met Police Will Now Investigate Alleged Downing Street Parties During Lockdown
Dame Cressida Dick confirmed the Met police is now investigating allegations of parties in Downing Street during lockdown (Alamy)
Police will now investigate allegations a number of parties were held in Downing Street during lockdown in breach of coronavirus rules, the Metropolitan Police commissioner has confirmed.
Dame Cressida Dick told the London Assembly this morning that, because of information provided by the current Cabinet Office inquiry led by Sue Gray, officers will now investigate the reported gatherings.
She said the force has “not normally investigated breaches of the regulations when they've been reported long after they are said to have been taken place”, saying it would “not normally be a proportionate use of officers’ time”.
Dick added: “But I can tell you this morning as a result, firstly of the information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry team, and secondly, my office's own assessment, 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.”
A spokesperson for the PM said he believed it was "entirely right" that the Met investigate the claims, and confirmed that Johnson would speak to the police if required.
The Metropolitan police have previously come under heavy criticism for not launching a criminal investigation despite numerous reports of gatherings in both 2020 and and 2021.
Officers have instead been said to have given evidence to Gray, the senior civil servant who is compiling a report into the allegations.
Her findings had been due to be published this week, but it is now uncertain whether she will wait until the Met investigation - for which there is no set timetable - has concluded before sharing her report.
The government has previously indicated any criminal proceedings would take precedent over her inquiry, however there are conflicting reports about whether Gray can deliver her account to the Prime Minister as planned before officers make a decision on criminality at the alleged gatherings.
In a statement, the Cabinet Office said Gray's inquiry would be "continuing" while the Met Police conducted its investigation, and there was "ongoing contact" with the force.
Both Sky News and the BBC have said the Met do not have a problem with Gray’s report coming ahead of any review by its own inquiry team, meaning it could still be published in the coming days, though it is understood no final decision has yet to be taken by the civil servant.
Talks are taking place between Gray's inquiry team and the Met to decide what can be published from her investigation, and the Prime Minister's official spokesman insisted Number 10 was not trying to block her report.
“I have seen reports suggesting that we were seeking to prevent the publication and that is not accurate,” they said.
“There are discussions still ongoing between the investigations team and the police.”
“That still needs to be worked through both in relation to what may or may not be published and the ongoing work of both the police and the investigation."
Speaking at City Hall in front of the London Assembly's Police and Crime Committee this morning, Dick said that the decision to retrospectively investigate Downing Street lockdown breaches did not mean that "fixed penalty notices will necessarily be issued in every instance and to every person involved".
"We will not be giving a running commentary on our current investigations," she added.
Dick did indicate that there will be updates at "significant points", but suggested not all of the alleged parties are being looked into by officers.
She said "several other events" that appeared to have taken place in Downing Street and Whitehall had been assessed but were not thought to have reached the threshold for investigation.
In a statement, the Met Police confirmed they had decided to open an investigation "following detailed assessments" of the "outline findings" provided to them by the Cabinet Office.
"Where multiple events occurred on a particular date at a location, all the events on that date will initially fall within the remit of the investigation so that the full circumstances can be established. This does not mean that everyone who attended an event will be investigated," the statement said.
The force has reportedly written to the Cabinet Office to request that "all relevant information gathered from its inquiry" is provided to the police.
Responding to reports of the Met investigation, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said it was "entirely right for the police to investigate these matters".
"The Prime Minister fully acknowledges the public's anger and concern about what has been reported.
"He has taken responsibility for misjudgments made and it is right that the Met should now be given the time and space to undertake these investigations.
"It will provide the public with welcome clarity and help draw a line under these events."
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tabled an Urgent Question in the Commons earlier to discuss the matter, claiming that "potential criminality had been found in Downing Street".
"What a truly damning refection on our nation’s very highest office," she told MPs.
“So I ask the minister, given this morning’s announcement when will the Sue Gary report finally be published?”
Rayner added: “All too soon the minister and I find ourselves here once again rather than dealing with the cost of living crisis impacting on families, we are talking about scandals in Downing Street again.”
Responding on behalf of the government, paymaster general Michael Ellis said the ministers recognised the “public anxiety and indignation".
"It appears as though the people who have been setting the rules may not have been following the rules," he told the Commons.
Labour MP Neil Coyle, who had called on the Met to investigate in a letter to Dick last month, criticised the police for taking so long to launch an inquiry.
He told PoliticsHome: "The Met have plodded along under Dick from crisis to crisis and it was obvious to all involved that an investigation was required - except to the Commissioner it seems.
"I asked for the Met to investigate at the start of December. It is appalling that it has taken so long to begin investigating but I hope it concludes faster than it has taken to begin."
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