She labelled the claims as ‘rumour and heresy’, adding: ‘It’s quite clear that all guidance was followed whether it was business meetings or whatever.’
The discussion came about after an audience member recalled being ‘stuck’ in Weston-super-mare last Christmas and unable to see her parents in London.
It follows Boris Johnson insisting during PMQs on Wednesday that he had ‘followed Covid rules’ as details emerged of ‘boozy lockdown bashes’ in his official residence.
Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup was repeatedly pressed by the BBC’s Fiona Bruce on whether there was a festive gathering in No 10 while London was in Tier Three last year
At one point Bruce, above, asked the audience who wanted to know whether there was a Christmas party, to which nearly everyone raised their hand
An audience member began: ‘This time last year, my parents are from south London, so we couldn’t go see them. They both had Covid – we followed the guidance, we did what we were told.
‘I’m stuck in Weston-super-mare, mum and dad are at home in South Norwood. Then you hear “they’re having Christmas parties while we are suffering?”
‘It makes me sick. It really does, it makes me really upset.’
The public health minister replied: ‘Well I respect that people put up with a lot over the last 20 months. Nobody could have predicted what was going to happen.’
After being questioned by BBC host Bruce over the Christmas party in particular, she continued: ‘Well the Prime Minister said quite clearly on Wednesday at PMQs that all guidance was followed.’
The audience and panel members could then be heard erupting into laughter, before Bruce said: ‘That wasn’t the question that was asked, which I think is why everyone is laughing Maggie.
‘You might as well put it straight because we’ve got you here now. So was there a Christmas party or wasn’t there?’
Ms Throup responded: ‘I wasn’t there’, to which Bruce said: ‘I’m sure you were briefed before you came on Maggie.’
Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire could be seen with her head in her hands at one point during the debate on BBC’s Question Time last night
The panel (pictured above) consisted of Throup, Debbonaire, Wendy Chamberlain, Professor Peter Openshaw and Theo Paphitis
When did the ‘parties’ take place and what were the Covid rules at the time?
November 27 – Mr Johnson reportedly gives a speech at a packed leaving do for a ‘senior aide’. ’40 or 50 people’ were present.
RULES: All indoor gatherings banned unless they involved a single household bubble.
December 18 – Downing Street staffers allegedly hold their own festive party, with the PM not in attendance. Group size is also given as 40 to 50.
RULES: Tier 3 restrictions banning indoor social gatherings. The rules specifically stated ‘you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity’.
November 13 – Reports of a third, smaller gathering. This would have also coincided with the second lockdown.
The host then asked the audience who wanted to know whether there was a Christmas party, to which nearly everyone raised their hand.
The MP for Erewash in Derbyshire said: ‘I am not aware of the Christmas party.
‘Number 10 is a workplace and I’ve been reassured that all guidance was carefully followed.’
After the audience appeared to give a resounding ‘no’ when asked whether that answered the question, she continued: ‘My answer is not going to change because the guidance was followed.’
Bruce interjected: ‘But that must mean there wasn’t a Christmas party then because the guidance was no Christmas parties.’
Ms Throup added: ‘This has been just rumour and heresy but it’s quite clear that all guidance was followed at Number 10 whether it was business meetings or whatever.’
Her comments follow Sir Keir Starmer accusing Mr Johnson of ‘taking the British public for fools’ in the Commons earlier this week after he failed to rebut claims there had been parties in Number 10 during the run up to last Christmas.
The Prime Minister and his Downing Street staff are accused of breaking Covid rules by hosting three festive gatherings in 2020.
On November 27, Mr Johnson is said to have given a speech at a packed leaving do for a senior aide.
At the time Britain was in the grip of the second lockdown, with all indoor social gatherings banned unless they involved a single household bubble.
Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Johnson of ‘taking the British public for fools’ in the Commons earlier this week after he failed to rebut claims there had been parties in Number 10 last year
Mr Johnson said ‘all guidance was followed completely’ as he clashed with Sir Keir at PMQs
Then, on December 18, Downing Street staffers apparently held their own festive party featuring a Christmas quiz and Secret Santa. At that point, London was subject to Tier 3 restrictions, with indoor gatherings outlawed and the rule of six outside.
At each of the two parties there were 40 or 50 people crammed ‘cheek by jowl’ into a medium sized room, according to the Daily Mirror.
A source also claimed there was a third, smaller gathering on November 13 – the night Dominic Cummings walked out.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman did not deny the gathering had taken place but he said: ‘At all stages the rules have been followed.’
The PM’s press secretary added: ‘We don’t recognise this account, as we’ve said Covid rules have been followed at all times.’
Asked which parts of the report were being denied, she said: ‘I’m not going to get into individual aspects of speculation.’
Separately, a spokesman described as ‘total nonsense’ claims Mr and Mrs Johnson had held parties in their private flat.