Downing Street And Cabinet Office Accused Of "Failures Of Leadership" In Sue Gray "Update" On Lockdown Parties
Gatherings held at Downing Street in breach of coronavirus restrictions represented "failures of leadership and judgement" by both Number 10 and the Cabinet Office, Sue Gray has concluded in a long-awaited update to her investigation into lockdown gatherings.
The twelve-page document also revealed that a "gathering" at Boris Johnson's Downing Street flat on 13 November 2020 is one of 12 events being investigated by the Met Police.
In her findings, Gray said that many of the reported gatherings held at Number 10 and across Whitehall were "difficult to justify" and that those attending had failed to meet the "high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government".
"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 report read.
She was also critical of the "excessive consumption of alcohol" at the heart of government, which she said was "not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time".
"Some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so," the report claimed.
Gray stressed, however, that she was "extremely limited in what I can say" about the Downing Street events, and that today's findings were not the "meaningful report" that had been expected.
A total of 16 events between May 2020 and April 2021 were considered by Gray's investigation, of which 12 are currently being actively investigated by the police.
Gray confirmed her team had spoken to over 70 people as part of her initial inquiry, and was given access to relevant photographs, emails and WhatsApp messages, as well as entry and exit logs for Downing Street.
There have been widespread calls for Johnson to resign following reports of the gatherings, with Labour claiming that his position is “untenable” if it was concluded that the Prime Minister had breached coronavirus regulations.
Questions still remain over whether details of events currently being investigated by the Met Police — which were omitted from the version of Gray’s report released today — will ever be published.
Downing Street has previously stated that it will publish the report as it was received, and Johnson confirmed in the Commons last week that he intends to publish the report in full.
But the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said on Monday that they “can't confirm at this point” whether details that have been removed because of the police investigation will ever be published.
“We will need to consider what might be appropriate and we are discussing with the Cabinet Office team in due course about what might be appropriate,” they said.
“But at the moment it is unclear how the ongoing Met police investigation might interact with any further work on that. Obviously it’s something we will want to keep under review.”
In a fresh statement on Monday, the Met police said it had recieved over 300 images and over 500 pages of information relating to the offences it was investigating.
They confirmed they would be contacting those who attended events "to get their account".
"As a result, the Met has requested that any information identified as part of the Cabinet Office investigation about these events, is not disclosed in detail," he said.
But police were clear that their investigation would only temporarily prevent the report from being published in full. "This request only applies for the duration of our investigation and does not apply to events we are not investigating," the statement added.
On Friday the Met confirmed Gray had been asked to make “minimal reference” to events it was investigating in her report.
The force insisted, however, that it had not asked for “any limitations on other events" or "for the report to be delayed".
MPs and opposition parties reacted angrily to the Met’s statement, with some suggesting the efforts to remove key parts of Gray’s report looked like a “cover up”.
One Tory MP told PoliticsHome it was a “complete joke” that the police had ultimately chosen to investigate the allegations of Downing Street parties, despite initially stating they did not retrospectively look into Covid regulation breaches.
Dame Cressida Dick told the London Assembly last week that, because of information provided by the current Cabinet Office inquiry, officers would now investigate the reported gatherings.
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.
However, it is understood that the Met is yet to contact Johnson in relation to the investigation.
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