Pressure piles on PM as Simon Case quits No10 Xmas party probe after 'event in his office'

17 December 2021, 18:36 | Updated: 18 December 2021, 07:16

Simon Case has stepped down from the inquiry he was leading.
Simon Case has stepped down from the inquiry he was leading. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case has "recused himself" from leading an investigation into alleged parties held across Whitehall during coronavirus restrictions, Downing Street has confirmed.

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It follows reports that an events was held in his own department.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "Staff in the Cabinet Secretary's private office took part in a virtual quiz on 17 December 2020.

"A small number of them, who had been working in the office throughout the pandemic and on duty that day, took part from their desks, while the rest of the team were virtual.

"The Cabinet Secretary played no part in the event, but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own office. No outside guests or other staff were invited or present.

"This lasted for an hour and drinks and snacks were bought by those attending. He also spoke briefly to staff in the office before leaving."

Simon Case was tasked with carrying out an independent investigation into three alleged parties which were held at No10 over the Christmas period last year.

The Cabinet Office has confirmed Sue Gray, a senior government official, is taking over the investigation.

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A Number 10 spokesperson said: "To ensure the ongoing investigation retains public confidence the cabinet secretary has recused himself for the remainder of the process.

"The work will be concluded by Sue Gray, second permanent secretary at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

"She will ascertain the facts and present her findings to the Prime Minister."

When asked previously to confirm Simon Case wasn't personally compromised on the matter of Downing Street parties a Number 10 spokesperson said : "I think you can be assured that due diligence has been followed on that."

The investigation is set to look into the alleged Downing Street bash on December 18 as well as an event at the Department for Education's (DfE) Whitehall headquarters on December 10 last year, and a reported leaving do for a No 10 aide – allegedly attended by Boris Johnson – on November 27.

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The announcement comes after the Metropolitan Police confirmed they will speak to two people over "alleged breaches" of Covid regulations after revelations emerged that campaign staff held a party at the Conservative Party HQ.

The Metropolitan Police said it is aware one took place in Matthew Parker Street in London on 14 December last year, the same day ex-Tory Mayor of London candidate Shaun Bailey and his team were pictured celebrating.

A spokesperson said: "Officers will be making contact with two people who attended in relation to alleged breaches of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations."

The event in question is not the same as an alleged party at Downing Street, claimed to have taken place a few days later.