Sue Gray report live: Lockdown parties ‘a serious failure’

Sue Gray report live: Lockdown parties ‘a serious failure’

A limited version of the report into No 10 and Whitehall parties during lockdown has criticised a “serious failure” to observe the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government.

Sue Gray’s findings were published online as Boris Johnson prepared to face MPs as he fights to save his premiership.

Three new gatherings not previously revealed were included in Sue Gray’s investigations.

These were a gathering in the Cabinet Office on June 18, 2020, to mark the leaving of a No 10 private secretary, a third gathering on December 17, 2020 – on top of two already reported – to mark the departure of a No 10 official in Downing Street, and a new event on January 14, 2021, also in No 10, when two private secretaries left.

Two previously reported gatherings were not included in her inquiry.

These were drinks held at the Treasury on November 25, 2020 and drinks at the Department for Transport on December 16, 2020.

On the Treasury drinks, a spokesman said at the time: “We have been made aware that a small number of those staff had impromptu drinks around their desks after the event.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “Fewer than a dozen staff who were working in the office had a low-key, socially distanced gathering in the large open-plan office after work on December 16, where food and drink was consumed.

“We recognise this was inappropriate and apologise for the error of judgment.”

In her general findings, Sue Gray twice refers to “failures”:

– “At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”

– “There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times.”

Dan Rosenfield
Dan Rosenfield (centre) , Boris Johnson’s chief of staff, leaves 10 Downing Street after the Prime Minister had left for the House of Commons (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Sue Gray’s update on her investigation into the partygate row is 12 pages long, two of which are blank and one of which is the title page.

Of the remaining nine pages, one page lists the terms of reference for the investigation and two provide a timeline of Covid-19 regulations from March 2020 to May 2021.

This leaves just six pages, which are divided into 24 short sections, most of which comprise a single paragraph.

Boris Johnson has left No 10 to face MPs after Sue Gray’s partygate inquiry was published.

The Prime Minister had a blank expression and answered no questions before he was driven away.

Boris Johnson
(Jonathan Brady/PA)
Downing Street partygate
The Sue Gray partygate report (Cabinet Office/PA)

Rishi Sunak was understood to have briefly attended the Cabinet Room gathering for Boris Johnson’s birthday, with it said to have been breaking up as he entered the room to attend a Covid strategy meeting.

With that gathering now under investigation, it raises the question whether the Chancellor will be speaking to the police.

Sue Gray said she decided not to publish factual accounts relating to events not under investigation by police because it would damage her overall findings.

She wrote: “In respect of the gatherings that the Metropolitan Police has assessed as not reaching the threshold for criminal investigation, they have not requested any limitations be placed on the description of those events, however, I have decided not to publish factual accounts in relation to those four dates.

“I do not feel that I am able to do so without detriment to the overall balance of the findings.”

Labour’s Chris Bryant, chairman of the Commons Standards Committee, tweeted: “Behaviour that is difficult to justify. A serious failure to observe high standards. Failures of leadership and judgement.

“Excessive consumption of alcohol in a professional workplace. Gatherings that should not of been able to take place. And that’s just the update!”

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy was among the first people to react to the report.

Sue Gray’s report criticised “failures of leadership and judgment” by parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office.

It said: “Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the Government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify.

“At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.

“At times it seems there was too little thought given to what was happening across the country in considering the appropriateness of some of these gatherings, the risks they presented to public health and how they might appear to the public.

“There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times. Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did.”

Police are investigating gatherings on at least eight separate dates, Sue Gray’s update suggests.

A page from the Sue Gray partygate report
A page from the Sue Gray partygate report (Cabinet Office/PA)

Police are investigating the gathering in the Cabinet Room in No 10 on Boris Johnson’s birthday in 2020, Sue Gray’s update on her inquiry suggests.

The cover of the Sue Gray partygate report
The cover of the Sue Gray partygate report (Cabinet Office/PA)

The Gray report concluded: “The gatherings within the scope of this investigation are spread over a 20-month period – a period that has been unique in recent times in terms of the complexity and breadth of the demands on public servants and indeed the general public.

“The whole of the country rose to the challenge. Ministers, special advisers and the Civil Service, of which I am proud to be a part, were a key and dedicated part of that national effort.

“However, as I have noted, a number of these gatherings should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did. There is significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across Government. This does not need to wait for the police investigations to be concluded.”

Sue Gray
Sue Gray’s report into alleged lockdown-busting parties at No 10 and Whitehall have been published (GOV.UK/PA)

In her report on the partygate row, Sue Gray said the Downing Street garden was “used for gatherings without clear authorisation or oversight” and “this was not appropriate”.

Sue Gray found that “at least some of the gatherings” she investigated represent “a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time”.

Sue Gray’s redacted report on the “partygate” allegations of lockdown-busting gatherings in No 10 and Whitehall has been published.

Boris Johnson will address a meeting of the whole Conservative parliamentary party at 6.30pm, a senior Tory MP has said.

A former communications director to Boris Johnson said limited publication of the Sue Gray inquiry is “bad for democracy” but “good for the PM”.

Will Walden, who advised him during his time as London mayor, told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme: “It’s a mess. It’s probably bad for democracy but inadvertently good for the PM.

“He’s used up quite a lot of lives over this but I think it’s landed pretty well for him.

“I think he has the benefit of seeing what appears to be a heavily redacted report, he doesn’t have long to respond but he’s responding to frankly what is going to be not a lot. And I suspect that can only help him.”

Boris Johnson spoke briefly with Sue Gray on Sunday ahead of the delivery of her report on lockdown parties, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I don’t believe they spoke this morning. My understanding is they spoke briefly yesterday.

“I think they briefly discussed the findings. I don’t know exactly what they discussed.”

Asked if the Prime Minister was grateful for Ms Gray’s work, the spokesman said: “Yes, he commissioned this work she carried out.”

Downing Street said it will publish the Gray report in the full form it has received from the inquiry team, but did not commit to publish a fuller version in the future.

Asked why the release has so far been characterised as an “update”, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s a reflection of the fact there is an ongoing police investigation and the Met have been clear about what their expectations are about what can or cannot be put in the public domain while that’s ongoing.”

Asked whether Sue Gray will seek to publish more in the future, he said: “Obviously we will need to consider what might be appropriate and we are discussing with the Cabinet Office team in due course about what might be appropriate, but at the moment it is unclear how the ongoing Met Police investigation might interact with any further work on that. But obviously it’s something we will want to keep under review.”

Pressed on whether the public will see a fuller report after the Met investigation, the spokesman said: “That’s one of the things I can’t confirm at this point simply because we need to discuss that with the Met and others about what is suitable.”

But questioned on whether the report will be published in the manner it was received from the inquiry team, he confirmed: “We will publish it as received.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We can confirm that Sue Gray has provided an update to the Prime Minister.

“The findings will be published on gov.uk and made available in the House of Commons library this afternoon and the Prime Minister will then provide a statement to the House after people have had the opportunity to read and consider the findings.”

He expected the Prime Minister’s statement to be made around 3.30pm.

Downing Street said it will publish Sue Gray’s report on Monday afternoon in the full form it has received from the inquiry team, but did not commit to publish a fuller version in future.

Guernsey Press