The Mirror reported last week that alcohol, nibbles and party games were all available at a gathering in No.10 on December 18 2020 – when London was in tier 3 restrictions – and that several dozen people were in attendance.
On Monday, Sky News’ Kay Burley referenced the gathering and asked Malthouse: ”Should the police be investigating an alleged breach of tier 3 rules?”
“It’s hard for me to go further than that Kay because we don’t generally comment on specific cases or inquiries as minsters, that’s not proper for us to do.
“In terms of what the police’s responsibility is, I think they’re very aware of that, and if reports are made then inquiries will follow and let’s see where it goes after that.”
Speaking more generally, he continued: “As policing minister, my view is that if offences of any kind are reported to the police, there should be an investigation they have to examine it and decide whether to pursue it.”
He claimed that, as a politician, he should not seek to influence what the police investigate.
Burley pointed out that it is “really irritating” for the public that this allegation about a party is not being looked into, but the minister just replied: “I assume that any inquiry that is made by the police will examine those issues.”
Speaking to Mishal Husain on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Malthouse repeated the party line again and said: “The reassurances I have been given are that none of those rules were broken at Downing Street.
“They complied by the regulations at the time.”
Husain said: “I know that’s the answer.
“But it doesn’t make sense to people who hear the description of the gathering – which has not been denied by Downing Street and if it wasn’t true it would be very easy for them to deny it, and then – they contrast that to the rules that only permitted gatherings reasonably necessary for work, and they don’t understand how that description of it being within the rules applies.”
Malthouse said: “The description [there] doesn’t mean that’s what actually took place.”
Husain said: “Why haven’t they denied it then?”
Malthouse said he had asked Downing Street, and he was reassured that all the rules were followed.
Husain continued to press him, only for the policing minister to say: “I’m not an investigator Mishal, my job to seek reassurance.”
“You must want to know the answer to that question – how can that gathering be within the rules, how?” She asked.
Malthouse dodged the question again and said she should redirect her query to No.10.
Adding that he had received “reassurances”, he said: “I have to take that at face value, that’s absolutely what I’m sure is the case.
“It’s up to others if they want to take it further.”
He said that he believed No.10′s claims and that he was “comfortable” the rules had been followed.
At the time, only gatherings reasonable for work were permitted.
Malthouse also said questions surrounding the alleged party depend on factors such as “how far apart would people have been”, and the “size of space it was” and other “variations”.
Malthouse also struggled to field similar questions on BBC Breakfast.
He was asked by Sally Nugent if – as he is supporting an investigation into drug-use in parliament – will he support an investigation into No.10′s alleged party.
He replied: “I haven’t offered a view other way on the party. I just said I’ve had assurances [that Covid rules were followed].”