As the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into the Partygate scandal continues, the force has confirmed that 50 further fixed penalty notices have been issued for breaching Covid lockdown rules within Downing Street and other government buildings, taking the total beyond 100.
The latest raft of fines comes after 50 were issued last month, including to prime minister Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie, and chancellor Rishi Sunak.
However, Downing Street has said that neither the PM nor his wife are among those to be fined in the latest round.
The BBC reports that the current set of penalties is believed to relate to a Christmas party which took place in December 2020, which the prime minister did not go to.
It is believed by the media that this Christmas party could be the infamous gathering of December 18, 2020, which Downing Street staff were filmed joking about mere days after it had happened. The emergence of the footage late last year resulted in the PM’s former press secretary, Allegra Stratton, resigning from her position.
In the footage obtained by ITV News, Stratton was seen joking about the party with other officials who had allegedly attended but was not present at the gathering herself.
On the day that Stratton resigned, the prime minister said that he’d been “repeatedly assured” by staff that there was “no party” on December 18, 2020, and that Covid rules had always been followed within Downing Street.
The Met’s investigation is looking into 12 gatherings overall, three of which the prime minister is known to have attended.
Expressing shock at the level of illegal activity which took place within Downing Street during lockdown, Johnson said that the government “will have plenty to say about that [Partygate] when the thing [police investigation] is finished.”
Operation Hillman, the Metropolitan Police’s probe into Partygate is ongoing. Further fines are expected to be issued but no timescale has been given as to when the next set of fines may come, or when the investigation might conclude.
Meanwhile, the full unredacted report of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry into Partygate awaits publication after the Met investigation ends, and the House of Commons Privileges Committee is running a probe of its own into whether the prime minister knowingly mislead Parliament over the parties.
A censored version of Gray’s report was revealed in February, which singled out “failures of leadership and judgement by different parts of Number 10 and the Cabinet Office” for enabling the gatherings to take place, which should “not have been allowed”.
The Partygate saga has seen multiple MPs call for Johnson and Sunak to resign from their posts. However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has been a vocal critic of the pair, is currently being investigated for his part in a gathering last April at City of Durham MP Mary Foy’s constituency office, during which he was filmed drinking alcohol.
Sir Keir has denied any wrongdoing but said that he will resign if the police deem him to have breached the rules that were then in force.
While the prime minister has retained the support of his fellow ministers, he has once more come under fire from opposition MPs.
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, pointed out that the PM had specifically told Parliament that Covid rules “were followed in Number 10 at all times” but that the issuing of fines were indicative of “the extent of his lies” and the “shocking scale of the law-breaking in Johnson’s Downing Street.”
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