UK PM to clash with MPs as lockdown holiday report looms
Boris Johnson will face more questions about the No 10 parties from MPs later as the results of an internal inquiry into possible lockdown breaches are awaited.
It is understood that the long-awaited report by senior civil servant Sue Gray is largely complete and could be released as early as Wednesday.
But it is not expected to be revealed until Prime Minister’s Questions at noon, reports the BBC.
It comes after the Met Police announced their own investigation on Tuesday.
Commissioner Cressida Dick said the force has been investigating potential breaches of Covid laws at a number of events in government buildings since 2020.
The police investigation is putting further pressure on the Prime Minister, after weeks of headlines about rallies in Downing Street amid laws banning social mixing were in place.
The Prime Minister has apologized for attending a ‘bring your own alcohol’ event on May 20, 2020, during the first lockdown, saying he believed it was a ‘work event’.
New allegations that a birthday party was held for the Prime Minister in June 2020 have also come to light.
Some Tory MPs have openly called on Johnson to resign over the party’s allegations – but ministers have urged others to wait for Ms Gray’s findings.
Many conservatives are awaiting his report before deciding whether or not to submit letters of censure to Johnson, potentially sparking a leadership race.
At least 54 are to write to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 backbench committee, to arrange a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister.
Johnson has already pledged to make a statement in the Commons after the report is released. There has been no official confirmation of the release date.
Labor has urged the government to give MPs plenty of time to digest the report before any statements are made, with copies released well in advance.
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “The government will behave entirely properly in relation to any statement, and the usual courtesies are extended to the opposition. “
He said the cabinet was in “unanimous support” for the Prime Minister as “anyone who did not support the Prime Minister would be forced to resign”.
Also speaking to BBC Newsnight, Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry said the Prime Minister’s attitude towards the parties’ allegations during the lockdown had undermined his authority.
Ms Thornberry said Boris Johnson ‘knew from the start that he had been involved in so many, many parties’ and had ‘covered up and continued to cover up’.
She added that “he does not have the power to lead” on issues such as the cost of living crisis or Russian threats against Ukraine.
Sue Gray is, I am told, keen for the investigation to be published in its entirety, without summaries or redactions that might blur or obscure some of her more pointed information.
The report is said to be thorough and candid, and it is not expected to be easy to read, either for the government or for the public service itself.
It is understood that there is plenty of evidence, with photographs and Whatsapp messages passed to him.
Much of this evidence has been passed to police in recent days, explaining why the Met concluded on Tuesday that it was important for them to announce publicly that they would also be investigating.
Dame Cressida did not say which gatherings are being investigated by police, and while breaches of the regulations can result in fixed fines, the Met’s investigation does not mean they will be issued “in all cases and to all persons involved”.
She said it wouldn’t normally be a “proportionate use of time” for the force to investigate non-compliance with the rules two years ago, but such investigations have been carried out in cases of “the most serious and egregious” part of the regulation, or where it was considered that those involved “should have known that what they were doing was an offence”.
Johnson said on Tuesday he welcomed the investigation because it would “give the public the clarity they need” about the allegations.
His spokesman said the Prime Minister did not believe he had broken the law.