D-Day for Boris? Partygate report 'fairly imminent' Liz Truss tells LBC

25 January 2022, 13:00 | Updated: 26 January 2022, 09:05

Liz Truss says Sue Gray&squot;s partygate report will come out "imminently"
Liz Truss says Sue Gray's partygate report will come out "imminently". Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Will Taylor

A full inquiry into lockdown-breaching parties at Downing Street will be published "fairly imminently," Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said.

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When asked when Sue Gray's report into the Partygate scandal will be published, the Foreign Secretary said: "I don't know is the answer, I think it's fairly imminent but we don't know when it will be."

The report by senior civil servant Sue Gray was expected to be given to No10 by Tuesday evening, The Mirror reported – with the full inquiry set to be published on Wednesday, possibly ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions at 12pm.

It comes after the Metropolitan Police dropped a bombshell on Tuesday morning when Dame Cressida Dick announced the force will now investigate allegations of Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street, having previously said there was not enough evidence.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: "I don't know is the answer, I think it's fairly imminent but we don't know when it will be."

The PM's official spokesman had said earlier parts of Ms Gray's inquiry would not be published until the police investigation has ended, but other sections not covered by the probe could still be put out.

On Tuesday evening, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said he was aware of "speculation" that the Metropolitan Police did not object to the publication of the report.

"The advice that I have had is that there are still ongoing discussions, there are still details that need to be worked through between both the police and the investigations team," he said.

Read more: Not an 'easy day' for Boris Johnson: Jacob Rees-Mogg defends PM in partygate scandal

When will the Sue Gray report be published, Foreign Secretary?

The spokesman said decisions on publication were a matter for the Cabinet Office and police and "we are not, as in No 10, seeking to block that in any way".

He added it "certainly remains the case that we would want it to be published as soon as possible" although "I would not want to be perceived as putting undue pressure on either the investigations team or the police".

Earlier on Tuesday, it emerged that officials are said to have handed photos to Sue Gray's investigators of parties in Downing Street which include images of Boris Johnson.

On Twitter, the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group described the reports as "unprincipled, undignified and unforgivable".

Sue Gray was given the pictures of people close together with wine bottles, Sky News said.

More images of Boris Johnson could be released imminently if Sue Gray puts them in her report.

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said he hoped Sue Gray's report into allegations of Downing Street lockdown parties would be published on Wednesday.

The MP for North West Leicestershire told Channel 4 News the conclusions of the civil servant's inquiry should be published "unredacted".

Mr Bridgen added: "I think the sooner the report comes out now the better, if it is completed, because we can't sit under this cloud, paralysing the Prime Minister, paralysing the Government."

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors, the Metropolitan Police's lead for Covid-19, is responsible for the met Police's investigation into Downing Street's alleged rule-breaking.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "The Special Enquiry Team will lead the investigations. DAC Jane Connors will oversee the investigation in her role as the Met's lead officer for Covid."

Mr Johnson said he "welcomes" the Met's investigation into partygate, and is willing to be interviewed by police over the saga.

He does not believe he has broken the law, his official spokesman said - but the Prime Minister did not discuss the investigation with his Cabinet despite being aware before the meeting that it would be announced.

Speaking to the House of Commons - when he was up to speak about the Ukraine situation - he said: "So I welcome the Met's decision to conduct its own investigation because I believe this will help to give the public the clarity it needs and help to draw a line under matters."

Boris Johnson updates MPs on police partygate probe

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said later on Tuesday: "Anyone asked to [help police] will co-operate fully, as you would expect."

Asked if the PM thought he had broken the law, the spokesman said: "I need to be cautious about what I say but I think that's fair to say that he does not."

Read more: Met police apologise to woman nine years after 'sexist and dehumanising' strip search

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Speaking about Dame Cressida’s announcement about the investigation, he said: "That was confirmed by the police while Cabinet was taking place so he didn't reference it specifically, he alluded to that at the end of Cabinet but beyond that no.

Met Police launches investigation into Downing Street parties

"He made those comments about ensuring the Government is not deterred from getting on with the job, he didn't go into detail about the Met given that Cressida Dick made her comments while Cabinet was taking place."

The spokesman added: "The Prime Minister was made aware shortly before Cressida Dick announced that in her session."

Shortly after Dame Cressida's announcement, the Cabinet was seen leaving No10. Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg took the opportunity to praise Mr Johnson's record, highlighting the vaccine rollout, as he left.

But reports say Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, is "upset" while the Daily Mail noted Rishi Sunak has not been very vocal during the saga.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Dame Cressida referenced that investigation and said: "As a result firstly of the information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry team and secondly my officers' own assessment, I can confirm that the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid 19 regulations."

She added that updates would be given at "significant points" and went on: "The fact that we are now investigating does not, of course, mean that fixed penalty notices will necessarily be issued in every instance and to every person involved.

"We will not be giving a running commentary on our current investigations."

The Met said it "has written to the Cabinet Office this morning with a formal request for it to refer all relevant information gathered from its inquiry in relation to events on the dates in question to support the police investigations".

James O'Brien's instant reaction to Met investigation into parties

The Cabinet Office confirmed Ms Gray's inquiry will still continue after suggestions emerged she would have to suspend it should the police get involved.

"The investigation being carried out by Sue Gray is continuing," a spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said.

"There is ongoing contact with the Metropolitan Police Service."

Read more: 'How stupid does he think you are?': James O'Brien eviscerates Jacob Rees-Mogg

The news followed the latest partygate claim, which said Boris Johnson enjoyed a birthday do at No10.

ITV News reported it took place June 19, 2020, when the first lockdown was imposed and strict rules against indoor gatherings were implemented. It was said that up to 30 people went to a "surprise" party when Mr Johnson's wife Carrie presented him with a cake and staff sang happy birthday.

The Cabinet Room gatherings are said to have lasted for 20 to 30 minutes, while Downing Street said Mr Johnson only attended for less than 10 minutes.

It was the latest in a deluge of damaging claims about rule-breaking gatherings. The Prime Minister apologised for going to a garden event in May 20 2020, saying he believed it was a work event, and Downing Street had to say sorry to the Queen for a do on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral - which the monarch attended under Covid rules.

A spokeswoman for Lulu Lytle, who was responsible for Mr Johnson's controversial flat refurbishment, yesterday denied she "attended birthday celebrations for the Prime Minister as a guest", but added she had "entered the Cabinet Room briefly as requested, while waiting to speak with the Prime Minister".

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also went for a short amount of time while sources insisted he "had not been invited".

Martin Reynolds, the civil servant who is already under fire for inviting more than 100 people to a drinks do on May 20 2020, is said to have gone.

Jack Doyle, the former head of communications who is alleged to have gone to other events, is also said to have attended.

The rules stated at the time of the birthday get-together: "No person may participate in a gathering which takes place in a public or private place (a) outdoors, and consists of more than six persons, or (b) indoors, and consists two or more persons."

Transport secretary Grant Shapps told LBC on Tuesday that Mr Shapps said he "shared people's sense of upset" but it was important to wait for Ms Gray's report on the parties.

ITV News also said there was a second gathering that night, where family friends were hosted in the Prime Minister's residence. No10 has denied the claim, saying Mr Johnson only hosted a small number of family members outside.

The spokesperson did not clarify how many guests there were.

When approached by LBC, No10 and the Cabinet Office declined to comment on when the Sue Gray inquiry will be published.