PM and Cabinet Secretary escape latest tranche of partygate fines as total passes one hundred
Boris Johnson and the Cabinet Secretary were unscathed by the latest tranche of partygate fines issued by the Metropolitan Police, as the total climbed into triple figures.
It was announced on Thursday that the force had made around a further 50 fixed penalty notice referrals as part of its investigation into possible lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street and across Whitehall.
It brought the number of fines to more than 100 – with Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak hit with fixed penalty notices in April over a birthday party held for the Prime Minister in No 10’s Cabinet Room in June 2020.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson broke his own rules on a “record-breaking scale” and that “Britain deserves better”.
It comes as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is caught in a row of his own over a possible Covid rule breach – after he was filmed last year drinking beer with staff in a party office in Durham.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said following the Met’s update that neither the PM nor Cabinet Secretary Simon Case were among those fined in the latest tranche.
Mr Johnson confirmed he was not one of the most recent recipients, nor was his wife, following a Cabinet away day in Stoke-on-Trent.
Asked by broadcasters if he or Mrs Johnson had been issued with a second fine, he said: “No, but as soon as we have more to say on that, as I’ve said many times before, you will be among the very first to know.”
Earlier, the PM’s spokesman said: “With regards to the Cabinet Secretary and the Prime Minister, I don’t have any update … the position (is) we will update you if that were to change.
Pressed on whether it was his understanding that Mr Johnson and Mr Case were not among those hit with the most recent set of penalties, the spokesman said: “That’s correct, yeah.”
He added: “You’ll know that the Prime Minister has on a number of occasions apologised and made clear that there were things we simply did not get right, and that he is sorry for how this matter has been handled.
“Obviously that remains the case. And like I say, he will have more to say at the conclusion … and when the Sue Gray report is published.”
The Prime Minister said he was “sure we’ll have plenty to say about that when the thing’s finished” when asked about the extent of law-breaking in Downing Street as he arrived for a Cabinet meeting in Staffordshire on Thursday.
Ministers dodged questions on whether they still had faith in the PM when asked about the latest development at the same event.
Home Secretary Priti Patel failed to say whether or not she still supported Mr Johnson, while Health Secretary Sajid Javid also chose not to answer when asked why the PM would not resign, despite Sir Keir’s promise to do so if he is handed a fixed penalty notice.
In a statement on Thursday, the Metropolitan Police said: “As of Thursday May 12, Operation Hillman, the investigation into breaches of Covid-19 regulations in Whitehall and Downing Street, has made more than 100 referrals for fixed penalty notices (FPNs) to the ACRO Criminal Records Office.
“These referrals have continued to be made throughout the period since our last update on Tuesday April 12 and the investigation remains live.”
In its last update on April 12, the Met said “over 50” FPN referrals had been made.
Mr Johnson is alleged to have been at six of the 12 events being examined by the force, meaning he could be fined again.
The Met sent out more than 100 questionnaires earlier this year in relation to allegations of law-breaking parties in Government buildings while pandemic-related restrictions were in place.
It was previously reported that some Government staff had received new questionnaires from the force in relation to a leaving party for the Prime Minister’s former communications director, Lee Cain, on November 13 2020.
But Mr Johnson indicated earlier this month that he was not among those to be sent one, telling Times Radio: “I am not commenting on this stuff generally, but the answer to that is no, not so far, or certainly not to my knowledge.”
There have been ongoing calls for the PM to resign over the saga from opposition MPs, as well as his own backbenches, but he has repeatedly said he is determined to get on with the job.
In addition to the Scotland Yard probe and the investigation by Ms Gray, a senior civil servant, into the partygate claims, the PM is facing a third inquiry by the Privileges Committee into whether he misled Parliament with his repeated assurances that Covid rules were followed in No 10.
Asked in Stoke-on-Trent if his previous statements about not knowing rules were broken could be true, given the extent of the police fines, Mr Johnson said: “As soon as I have any more to say about that, you will be among the very first to know.”
Sir Keir has pledged to stand down if he is fined for breaching coronavirus regulations.
Asked in an interview broadcast on Thursday if he too should go in the event the Labour leader resigns, Mr Johnson told LBC: “What matters to me and the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is not stuff that, I think, is, however fascinating (it) is to people, I don’t think is material to the cost of living.
“What matters to me is getting our people through the aftershocks of Covid and coming out strongly the other side, but making sure that we use … all the legislative firepower in the Queen’s Speech, all the things that we’re doing on skills, on infrastructure, on the cost of energy, on education, to make sure that we have a strong economic recovery, that we power through.”
Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg made clear his continued backing of the Prime Minister, saying he “deserves” his support.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi also said they still had faith in their leader when asked about the fines as they attended the Staffordshire meeting.
The latest revelations were condemned by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who said they reflected the “shocking scale of law-breaking” in Boris Johnson’s Downing Street and “the extent of his lies”.
Ms Rayner said: “Boris Johnson’s Downing Street has now reached a century of fixed penalty notices for their partying.
“They have racked up the dubious distinction of receiving more fines on the Prime Minister’s watch than any other location.
“Boris Johnson made the rules and then broke them at record-breaking scale. Britain deserves better.”
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