Sue Gray’s initial report on lockdown-defying parties at No 10 says the gatherings represented a ‘serious failure’ of judgement and leadership.
The prime minister received the report earlier today, and is addressed its content to a lively House of Commons this afternoon.
Ms Gray, the senior civil servant heading the inquiry into No 10 gatherings, was set to hand her report to Downing Street last week.
However the Metropolitan Police’s announcement last Tuesday, that it was investigating the gatherings, delayed publication. On Friday the Met urged Ms Gray to afford “minimal reference” to the events under criminal investigation.
In this afternoon’s Downing Street lobby briefing this afternoon, No 10 refused to commit to publishing Ms Gray’s report in full following the conclusion of the Metropolitan Police’s investigation.
The prime minister’s spokesperson stated the prime minister would only “consider asking Sue Gray to make a further update” once the Met Police’s investigation had concluded.
Opposition politicians have requested that the report be released in full.
“They [the Met] have told me that it would only be appropriate to make minimal reference to the gatherings on the dates they are investigating. Unfortunately, this necessarily means that I am extremely limited in what I can say about those events”, Ms Gray wrote.
She wrote that it was “not possible at present to provide a meaningful report setting out and analysing the extensive factual information.”
Ms Gray wrote that although the Met had not asked her to withhold information regarding the four events not judged to have reached the threshold for criminal investigation, she did “not feel” that she was able to publish all her findings in regards to them “without detriment to the overall balance of the findings.”
“I have not made comment on whether individual gatherings were in line with the relevant guidance and regulations in place at the time. I did not judge it appropriate to do so given the police investigation that is now underway,” she went on.
However she argued that: “At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”
She went on: “Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the Government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify.”
Addressing MPs this afternoon, the prime minister said that he was “sorry for the things that we simply didn’t get right and I’m also sorry for the way that this matter has been handled.
He admitted that: “It isn’t enough to say sorry, this is a moment where we should look ourselves in the mirror and we must learn,” and added that he accepted Sue Gray’s general findings “in full”.
He pledged to “fix it”, going on: “I know that issue is, it’s whether this government can be trusted to deliver, I say yes we can.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer hit back, saying that there was “no doubt that the prime minister is subject to criminal investigation,” describing how: “The British public have been asked to make the most heart-wrenching sacrifices, a collective trauma, ensured by all, enjoyed by none. Revelations about the prime minister’s behaviour have forced us all to rethink and relive those darkest moments
“Many have been overcome by guilt because they stuck to the law, they didn’t see their parents one last time, guilt that because they didn’t bend the rules, their children went months without seeing friends.”
“They should feel pride in themselves and their country because in abiding by those rules, they saved the lives of people that they will probably never meet
“The prime minister took us all for fools. He’s fallen back on his usual excuse: It’s everybody’s fault but his. They go, he stays. He gleefully treats what should be a mark of shame as a welcome shield”.
Sir Keir said that the public wanted the prime minister’s resignation and accused Boris Johnson of being a “man without shame” and that he was responsible for the “eroding of our democracy and the rule of law.”
The leader of the opposition even went on to quote former Conservative prime minster Margaret Thatcher, highlighting that she once said “the first duty of government is to uphold the law, if it tries to bob and weave and duck around duty when it’s inconvenient, then so will the governed,” and stressed that “to govern this country is an honour, not a birth right.”
Mr Johnson complained that the report did not “substantiate” what he described as a “tissue of nonsense” aimed at him by Sir Keir, and accused the Labour leader of “prejudging a police inquiry”.
Another key moment in the Commons this afternoon came when Theresa May issued a damning rebuke of Boris Johnson’s record.
The former prime minister, who was replaced by Mr Johnson following her 2019 resignation in the wake of a series of defeats on her Brexit policy, said that “Number 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public, so either my right honourable friend had not read the rules or didn’t understand what they meant or they didn’t think the rules applied to Number 10. Which was it?”
Mr Johnson responded by claiming that the Gray report did not affirm Ms May’s allegation.