Why has Sue Gray’s report into Partygate been delayed?
Downing Street said this afternoon that it is yet to receive Sue Gray’s formal report into the Partygate scandal.
There had been widespread speculation in Westminster that the report would be published at some point this week.
But the decision of the Metropolitan Police to launch its own investigation into Whitehall gatherings has thrown a spanner in the works.
The Cabinet Office and the Met are now liaising to ensure there is nothing in the final report which could cut across the police probe.
Ms Gray reportedly wants to hand Number 10 a version of the report that can be published in full.
That could require some rewriting to protect the integrity of the police investigation.
When the final version of the report is done it will then be presented directly to Boris Johnson.
Number 10 has committed to publish it as quickly as possible after that.
Fear were raised today that Sue Gray’s Partygate report could be on hold for months or ‘worthless’ after police revealed they have asked for the document to be watered down.
Scotland Yard said it has told the Cabinet Office there should be ‘minimal reference’ to be made to lockdown breaches they are investigating as potentially criminal.
The announcement sheds light on the delay to the inquiry findings being published, which had been expected days ago.
In a statement, the force said: ‘For the events the Met is investigating, we asked for minimal reference to be made in the Cabinet Office report.
‘The Met did not ask for any limitations on other events in the report, or for the report to be delayed, but we have had ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office, including on the content of the report, to avoid any prejudice to our investigation.’
Whitehall sources said top civil servant Ms Gray is facing major hurdles following the Met’s bombshell decision to launch a criminal probe – with questions over whether it is worth releasing it at all.
The findings of Ms Gray’s report were passed to the Met at the weekend, prompting Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to launch a formal investigation on Tuesday into claims that lockdown laws were broken.
Initially there was an expectation that the civil service probe would go on hold, before police surprised many by briefing that they were happy for it to be released in full.
However, in a twist after days of frantic speculation in Westminster it has now been confirmed that the Met is indeed demanding the removal of information that could be prejudicial to their investigation.
‘I know there were reports that the Met were fine for it to be published, but that proved not to be the case. Indeed, it’s the opposite,’ one Whitehall source said.
Another Whitehall source told the Sun: ‘Anything worth reading will now have to be held back. So there comes a point in deciding if it is even worth publishing until it can be run in full.’
Dame Cressida said on Tuesday that it would ‘not normally be’ a proportionate use of the force’s resources to investigate historic allegations of Covid breaches. But, in an ominous comment, she said investigations were carried out for ‘the most serious and flagrant type of breach’ where there was evidence of wrongdoing and no ‘reasonable defence’ – and where failure to act would ‘undermine the legitimacy of the law’.
The Met declined to comment yesterday. But former chief superintendent Dal Babu said there was no reason the report could not be published in full.
He told Sky News: ‘It is not a judge-led inquiry, she doesn’t have any specific powers to call people to give evidence. So her report will be no different to a human resources report.’
Mr Babu pointed out that the sanction for breaching lockdown rules is a fixed-penalty notice – something he described as an ‘entry-level crime’.
Meanwhile, one source said that details of alleged lockdown parties, including the names of those involved, could be omitted because of concerns from Government lawyers, and another said the report would now be ‘much shorter and less detailed than it was.’
Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper, a vocal critic of the PM, said he had been moved by ‘heartbreaking’ testimonials from members of the public who were unable to see dying loved ones at a time when No10 staff are said to have held parties.
He said: ‘The report must be published in full. Any attempt to conceal or suppress crucial details would be wrong.’
Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would ‘pursue every option to make sure that report is out in full’.
The report had been due for release on Wednesday but had still not been passed to No10 this morning. Government sources said it was still possible for the report to be published today, with the PM giving a statement to Parliament later. But, with most MPs back in their constituencies, the report will likely not be published until at least Monday – leaving Mr Johnson facing another weekend in limbo.
It comes as Attorney General Suella Braverman was pictured leaving Downing Street at 7pm last night following news that dozens of Downing Street staff are facing fines after it emerged police have a list of people who attended lockdown-breaking parties.
The rule-breakers are likely to face fines of up to £100, as people who flouted Covid restrictions during lockdowns in England were charged £100 for the first offence.
Individuals that police believe they can prove attended the gatherings at Downing Street will be contacted in the near future and issued with fixed penalty notices, according to The Telegraph.
They will be forced to pay unless they are able to successfully challenge the fine with a reasonable explanation or evidence as to why they should not be charged.
Under lockdown rules and the Health Protection Act, people who broke Covid restrictions could be awarded fines up to £3,200 for repeated offences, though it is unclear whether people who attended multiple gatherings will face higher fines.
Many of the individuals expected to receive a fixed penalty notice will not be interviewed by police and will not have their names disclosed to the public.
But senior figures who attended the parties, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and those believed to have organised parties despite knowing they would contravene Covid rules, may well face police interviews.
Attorney General Suella Braverman visited No10 last night as it emerged that dozens of Downing Street staff are facing fines after police said they would issue fixed penalty notices to people who attended lockdown-breaking parties (Braverman pictured leaving Downing St at 7pm last night, Jan 27, 2022)
Whitehall sources said ethics chief Sue Gray was facing major hurdles in publishing her full report into the controversy following the Metropolitan Police’s decision to launch a criminal probe (Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick pictured Jan 25)
Dozens of Downing Street staff are facing fines after it emerged that police have a list of people who attended lockdown-breaking parties. The rule-breakers are likely to face fines of up to £100, as people who broke Covid restrictions during lockdowns in England could be fined £100 for the first offence
Senior figures who attended the parties, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and those believed to have organised parties despite knowing they would contravene Covid rules, may well face police interviews (British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns to 10 Downing Street after attending the weekly Prime Ministers Questions on January 26, 2022)
The row over Covid rule-busting gatherings looks set to drag into next week with Sue Gray (pictured) still yet to hand over her report to Number 10 – and Tories drawing battle lines over efforts to ‘suppress or conceal’ damaging details
It comes as former Cabinet minister Lord Frost urged Boris Johnson to axe ‘all the neo-socialists, green fanatics and pro-woke crowd’ in Downing Street to reset his premiership after the Partygate scandal.
The row over Covid rule-busting gatherings looks set to drag into next week with Sue Gray still yet to hand over her report to Number 10 – and Tories drawing battle lines over efforts to ‘suppress or conceal’ damaging details.
Mr Johnson has flatly denied that Ms Gray’s inquiry is being neutered as the wait for the conclusions continues – with complaints that other crucial issues are being ignored.
The PM is under growing pressure from Tory figures to conduct a massive clear out of his current Number 10 operation after the report is made public.
Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, tweeted that ‘whatever conclusions about the leadership Tory MPs may draw from the Gray report and whatever follows, the crucial thing is significant change in policies and in systems & people around the PM’.
Referencing a column written by The Telegraph’s Allister Heath, the peer said: ‘In systems & people – so the levers of government work, and, as Allister says, ‘with all the neo-socialists, green fanatics and pro-woke crowd exiting immediately’.’
The comments from Lord Frost are likely to be seen by some as a jab at Mr Johnson’s wife, Carrie, who is a passionate environmentalist and has been credited with influencing the PM’s previous declaration to pursue a ‘green recovery’ after the Covid pandemic.
The Prime Minister has faced criticism from some Tory MPs over his ‘green’ policies, with many concerned about the cost of hitting his net zero emissions target.
It came as Ms Gray’s progress appears to have been derailed by the bombshell announcement from Scotland Yard that it has opened a criminal investigation into some of the incidents, after assessing material provided by the Cabinet Office.
Although police insisted the report can go ahead, they are now thought to be asking for elements to be held back to avoid undermining their work.
Officials are understood to have been frantically redrafting with lawyers and HR chiefs, as a string of senior staff potentially face the axe.
Tory MP Mark Harper insisted that there must be no suggestion of a cover-up by No10, as rebels gear up for a coup attempt if the findings condemn Mr Johnson. Taking to Twitter to highlight a ‘heartbreaking’ interview with a man who lost his mother, father and sister to Covid in 2020, Mr Harper said: ‘The report must be published in full. Any attempt to conceal or suppress crucial details would be wrong.’ He was echoed by backbench organiser and former minister Steve Baker.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer demanded the report be published ‘in full and as soon as possible’, adding: ‘After what everybody in the country’s been through in the last year or two with the pandemic, huge sacrifices have been made, the least that they’re entitled to is the truth about what the Prime Minister was up to.’
But on a visit to Wales this afternoon, Mr Johnson said he was ‘absolutely not’ trying to influence the outcome. ‘I am afraid we have got to let the independent inquiry go on,’ he said, adding that the government was ‘getting on with our work’.
Downing Street said: ‘We are in no way seeking to block the report nor are we seeking to do as Mark Harper suggests. It remains our intention to publish the report as it is received from the investigation.’
Meanwhile, aides have raised alarm that Ms Gray is determined to punish politicians and special advisers, suggesting she is on a ‘power trip’.
And MP have been urging Mr Johnson to carry out a broad cull of Downing Street staff as part of a ‘reset’ to recover from the Partygate saga.
Former Cabinet minister Lord Frost has urged Boris Johnson to axe ‘all the neo-socialists, green fanatics and pro-woke crowd’ in Downing Street to reset his premiership after the Partygate scandal
The PM flatly denied that Sue Gray’s inquiry was being neutered as the wait for the conclusions continued – with fears it might not emerge until next week and complaints that other crucial issues are being ignored
The Prime Minister is expected to issue an apology and acknowledge that Partygate mistakes should never happened once he receives the report by Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray
Tory MP Mark Harper warned No10 today against any effort to ‘conceal or suppress’ details in the Sue Gray report
Boris DENIES helping ‘Pen’ Farthing’s animal charity escape Kabul after it lobbied Carrie
Boris Johnson said claims he approved a controversial airlift of animals from the collapse of Afghanistan for a charity that lobbied his wife were ‘total rhubarb’ today, as he faced renewed questions over his role and that of Carrie.
The Prime Minister used the eccentric phrase as he faced attacks over assistance offered to former soldier Paul Farthing and his Nowzad organisation as Kabul was abandoned to the Taliban.
Mr Johnson last year denied intervening after Nowzad contacted Mrs Johnson directly for help. But emails released yesterday showed that he did order official help to be directed to it.
Critics have raised concerns that animals were helped out of the country’s at the expense of locals who had worked for the UK and faced retribution from the Islamic extremists.
But today, speaking to broadcasters in North Wales he said: ‘This whole thing is absolute rhubarb.’
Lord Goldsmith, a Foreign Office minister and friend of Carrie Johnson, last night insisted that he did not discuss rescue efforts with the PM and appeared to try to apportion blame to senior officials in the Foreign Office who wrote the emails.
And today, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg accused Labour of ‘fussing about a few animals’ when the matter was raised in Parliament.
Amid questions over the role of the PM’s wife in controversies, one of his former allies, ex-Brexit minister Lord Frost, appeared to criticise her influence today.
Writing on Twitter he praised a newspaper column which suggested the PM distance himself from ‘green fanatics’ around him.
Mrs Johnson is known to support environmental causes and works for a conservation charity.
As tensions rise with Russia over Ukraine and mounting panic about the pressure on families from the cost of living, ministers have complained it is increasingly difficult to get decisions from the heart of government.
But sources close to the inquiry told MailOnline that the timing would not be dictated by No10’s desire to confront the story before the weekend.
‘It is not for us to delay the report or bring forward the report to a convenient time,’ the source said. ‘If it is ready at noon today or midnight that is when we will give it. We are not in the business of handing it over at a beneficial time.’
One veteran Tory aide also voiced gloom about the prospects of Ms Gray letting Mr Johnson off lightly. ‘She hates politicians and special advisers,’ they told MailOnline. If anyone had a political antenna they wouldn’t have let her near this report.
‘She is on a complete power trip. She will be loving this.’
But he is facing problems on another front today as he was forced to bat away claims he approved a controversial airlift of animals from the collapse of Afghanistan for a charity that lobbied his wife Carrie.
Mr Johnson said the idea was ‘total rhubarb’ as he faced attacks over assistance offered to former soldier Paul Farthing and his Nowzad organisation as Kabul was abandoned to the Taliban.
Mr Johnson is bracing to acknowledge ‘serious mistakes’ and voice regret for lax enforcement of lockdown rules in No10 when the conclusions finally appear. Senior Conservatives are demanding he stages a major clearout of Downing Street staff as the price of staying in power.
One ally told the Daily Mail: ‘He knows he has made serious mistakes, but he believes he is still the right man to lead this country.’
Although the PM is committed to making a Commons statement after receiving the report, the House is due to finish sitting at 5pm today.
Mr Johnson will want time to scour the report and assess its implications before he faces hostile questioning from Opposition MPs and his own Tory critics.
The Commons is running tomorrow but there is no government business and many MPs will have returned to their constituencies.
However, No10 sources indicated they are keen to get the statement done before the weekend if at all possible.
And asked in the chamber whether a statement could happen tomorrow, Commons Leader Mr Rees-Mogg said: ‘My view is that every sitting day is a proper sitting day. There are not greater or lesser days of business in this House.
‘The House of Commons sitting is an important constitutional activity and statements made on a Friday are as valid as statements made on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday.
‘I don’t know when the report will be published, I don’t know when it will be possible to announce a statement, but I am certainly of the view and I know Mr Speaker you share this view that this House has the right to know first.’
Cabinet minister Therese Coffey said she did not know why the report into parties in Downing Street and Whitehall during the 2020 lockdowns was taking so long to produce.
‘I know the Government has committed to publishing the full findings of the report but the timing I have absolutely know idea about,’ she told Sky News.
Ms Coffey added: ‘Have I ever been to any parties in Downing Street?
‘The last party I recall going to at Downing Street was the celebration of when the UK left the European Union following the referendum.’
Downing Street has launched a major drive to bring wavering MPs back onside. Mr Johnson held one-to-one meetings with 15 MPs to listen to their concerns and explain his strategy for restoring Tory fortunes.
Amid rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia, one senior Tory suggested any confidence vote might have to be delayed for weeks if Vladimir Putin invades the country in the coming days.
As allies mounting a desperate bid to shore up the PM, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries became the second Cabinet minister to warn that ousting the Prime Minister could trigger a general election.
That would be a serious threat to Tory MPs in the Red Wall seats seized in Mr Johnson’s 2019 landslide.
There is no requirement for a new leader to hold a general election, but Ms Dorries said previous handovers, such as Tony Blair to Gordon Brown, had taken place in ‘different times’.
Writing on Twitter she said: ‘Blair as example of why we won’t need GE is wrong.
‘It was yonks ago Blair to Brown smooth pre announced handover, no leadership election.
‘Brown was still pressured to go, bottled it and then lost. V different times pre rolling 24hr news / social media.’
Her comments echoed Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader, who said the UK now had ‘essentially a presidential system’, so any new leader would need their own mandate from the electorate.
Cabinet minister Therese Coffey has said she does not know why the Sue Gray report into parties in Downing Street is being delayed.
The Work and Pensions Secretary said she does not know when the report will come, and when asked why it was being held up, told Sky News: ‘I really don’t know. I know the Government has committed to publishing the full findings of the report but the timing I have absolutely know idea about.’
No 10 said it was yet to receive the report.
Ms Coffey added: ‘Have I ever been to any parties in Downing Street? The last party I recall going to Downing Street was the celebration of when the UK left the European Union following the referendum.’
Downing Street denied that the crisis had led to a go-slow at the heart of government.
Mr Johnson yesterday insisted he was ‘getting on with the job’, pointing to the efforts on Ukraine and the lifting of Covid regulations today.
But one Whitehall source said it was proving impossible to get decisions out of No 10 – or even arrange meetings with the PM to discuss vital issues.
‘No 10 is completely paralysed,’ the source said. ‘There are important meetings that are not happening because the PM is too busy seeing MPs to try and shore up support.
‘Decisions are not being taken because everyone is waiting to learn about their own futures. If it drags on it will be unsustainable.’
Sources said government lawyers were having to go through the report with a fine-tooth comb to ensure it did not prejudice the police inquiry.
One source blamed Dame Cressida for the delay and criticised her decision to drop the Met’s previous approach of waiting for Miss Gray’s report to be published before deciding on whether to take action.
Ex-police chief says delay on Sue Gray’s report is ‘worrying’
Former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent Dal Babu said Sue Gray’s report has ‘no standing’ and is ‘no different’ from a human resources report.
Mr Babu said he is concerned about the delay over a police investigation into whether there were parties in No 10 and Whitehall during the 2020 coronavirus lockdowns.
The penalty for breaching lockdown rules is a fixed penalty notice, which, Mr Babu said, is an ‘entry-level crime’ that is as ‘simple as they can get’ in terms of police investigations.
He told Sky News: ‘I think the issue around the delay is worrying. I’m not entirely sure why there’s a delay.
‘I do investigations into matters since I’ve left the police and when I investigate matters… as soon as there’s any suggestion of criminality, you would then stand back and allow the police to have priority.
‘Sue Gray’s report has no standing. She’s a very eminent person, very able, but, in essence, it’s just a report.
‘It is not a judge-led inquiry, she doesn’t have any specific powers to call people to give evidence. So her report will be no different to a human resources report.’
Meanwhile, another source suggested the report would have to be ‘significantly toned down’ now that the police probe has been launched, adding: ‘It is very difficult to see how you can publish direct evidence against named people who might be the subject of a police inquiry.’
Downing Street has committed to publishing the report in full within hours of receiving it, with Mr Johnson expected to make an immediate statement.
The PM yesterday confirmed that he might have to resign if the report finds he knowingly misled Parliament over parties in No 10.
He said he was covered by the ministerial code, which makes misleading parliament a resignation issue.
But allies of the PM are confident that although he previously told MPs that ‘rules were followed at all times’, he is not guilty of knowingly misleading the House as that is what he believed to be true at the time.
The steady stream of allegations over alleged breaches of the rules have undermined the Prime Minister and many of his critics are waiting for Miss Gray’s report before deciding whether or not to submit formal letters saying that they have no confidence in his leadership.
Several Tory MPs remain poised to submit letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister as soon as Miss Gray’s report is published.
Some believe the threshold of 54 letters could be passed in the coming days, paving the way for a formal vote over his leadership.
But Bolton MP Mark Logan, who last week hinted he thought the PM should go, today said a meeting with Mr Johnson had convinced him that he had the capacity to get his premiership back on track.
Mr Logan told Sky News: ‘I could see he feels real contrition. He feels very sorry for the mistakes which have been made. But when he digs deep I think he can continue to lead this country.’
Fellow Tory MP Sir Edward Leigh said: ‘I think opinion is calming down at the moment.
‘I think when the history of this is written, people will think it’s almost ridiculous that in the midst of all these global challenges that we face, that serious people were calling on the Prime Minister to resign because of some social events… for which he’s apologised.’
The report’s findings were given to the Met Police at the weekend, prompting Dame Cressida Dick (pictured) to launch an investigation into claims that lockdown laws were broken
‘Spike tax hike and we’ll back you’: Tory MPs tell Boris Johnson he will win their support over partygate if he reconsiders national insurance rise
The Prime Minister has met wavering backbenchers in a bid to shore up support ahead of the publication of Sue Gray’s report into claims of lockdown breaches at No 10.
Sources say several have pressed him to delay the national insurance increase and ease the cost of living crisis facing millions of families.
The Prime Minister has met wavering backbenchers in a bid to shore up support ahead of the publication of Sue Gray’s report into claims of lockdown breaches at No 10
Number 10 is concerned about the contents of Sue Gray’s report, who has been investigating Boris Johnson’s conduct and alleged lockdown parties in Downing Street
The MPs are thought to want Mr Johnson to be ‘more Conservative’ – in return for backing him to lead them into the next election.
The campaign for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to put off the tax grab is rapidly gathering momentum.
The British Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors both yesterday called for it to be scrapped. They have been inundated with calls from members concerned that the 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance contributions would damage the economy and stop firms taking on staff.
Supposed to help fund health and social care, the £12billion tax grab takes effect from April. However, there are concerns that most of the money will be spent on the NHS treatment backlog and that it will come in just as families face rocketing energy and council tax bills.
On Tuesday, the Mail revealed that Lord Frost, the PM’s former Brexit chief, had added his support to calls for the hike to be scrapped. Some Cabinet ministers have insisted that the rise will still go ahead even though the PM appeared to leave the door ajar for a rethink in a television interview.
Official figures this week suggested the Government now had ‘headroom’ to cancel the tax increase after borrowing around £13billion less than expected.
It was claimed that the PM was ‘receptive’ to pleas from MPs and had left them believing he would embark on a ‘massive gear shift’ to tackle the cost of living crisis.
It was claimed that the PM was ‘receptive’ to pleas from MPs and had left them believing he would embark on a ‘massive gear shift’ to tackle the cost of living crisis
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg cast doubt over Cabinet support for the policy last night, telling the BBC: ‘I am very pleased you are talking about the cost of living – that is where the Government needs to be putting its energy … but taxation is a matter for the Chancellor.’
Since the national insurance increase was announced in September energy prices have rocketed and inflation has risen to its highest level in three decades.
On top of that, many experts predict that interest rates will rise significantly in the coming months – adding hundreds of pounds to mortgage repayments. The tax grab will cost someone on a £30,000 salary around £255 a year and £505 for those on £50,000. But it also costs businesses because employers have to pay the levy on wages.
Since the national insurance increase was announced in September energy prices have rocketed and inflation has risen to its highest level in three decades, putting additional pressure on Boris Johnson, pictured leaving Downing Street for PMQs yesterday
Boris Johnson and staff pictured with wine in Downing Street garden in May 2020
Kitty Ussher of the IoD said: ‘This will make the cost of living crisis worse by reducing take-home pay. It’s a tax on jobs, causing businesses to employ less people. It will hurt companies the hardest that have suffered most recently like leisure and hospitality.
‘Businesses will have to pay regardless of whether they are profitable, increasing their costs and pushing up the prices they charge, making inflation even worse. We want to see this tax rise scrapped.
‘Frankly, there’s enough for business leaders to be worrying about in the wider economy at the moment without adding this into the mix.’
The BCC’s Shevaun Haviland said: ‘Our members are telling us they are being squeezed by rising wages due to fierce competition for staff, and that the incoming NI increase will compound this at the worst possible time. If this tax increase is not postponed, we will see a stranglehold put on the economic recovery just when it needs to be powering up. Firms need to be given a chance to come up for air.’
Quizzed on the issue, Mr Johnson’s spokesman replied: ‘We need to responsibly fund how we tackle the backlog and how we deal with the challenge of social care.’
‘Bin this increase or it’s curtains for small firms’
A job agency chief yesterday said the national insurance increase should be ‘put in the bin and incinerated’.
Louise Burns of Nineteen Recruitment
Louise Burns of Nineteen Recruitment said her business relied on temporary staff being willing to go out to work for an agreed hourly rate. But she warned they might find this unviable if higher deductions hit their take-home pay.
The company director also pointed out that firms would suffer: ‘If clients have to squeeze their staffing budget due to the NI increase, then using an agency like us to fill their staffing gaps may not be viable for them anymore.’
Calling for the tax grab to be ‘put in the bin and incinerated’, she added: ‘The increase stands to impact all three parties in the supply chain and, as such, could have a significant impact on our business. I understand there’s a need to recoup the billions spent on the pandemic, but seriously, open your eyes and read the room. Now is not the time.
‘The last thing we need right now is for more businesses to collapse, creating an unemployment crisis.
‘With the cost of inflation, the hike in energy prices, interest rate increases, and the cost of living higher than ever, so many employers and small businesses are barely hanging in there. Saddle them with this too and it could be curtains for them and their employees.’
Based in North Shields, Tyne and Wear, Nineteen Recruitment specialises in providing temporary staff to the education, social care and public sectors.