Public may not be told if Johnson fined for partygate Covid rule breaches

Downing Street said it was for Scotland Yard to say whether fines were issued, but police do not routinely identify those hit with fixed penalties.

David Hughes
Tuesday 01 February 2022 15:22
Prime Minister Boris Johnson arriving at 10 Downing Street, London (PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson arriving at 10 Downing Street, London (PA)

The public may never be told if Boris Johnson is fined for breaches of coronavirus rules at No 10 parties, Downing Street indicated.

Officials insisted it would be a matter for Scotland Yard to decide whether to name individuals who are hit with fixed penalty notices in the partygate investigation – but police guidelines state they would not routinely be identified.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab insisted that “justice must be done and seen to be done”, but No 10 refused to guarantee that perpetrators would be identified.

Asked if No 10 would reveal any fines issued as a result of the investigation, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I’m not going to get into speculating, obviously it’s a matter for the police what they say in that regard.”

The spokesman added: “It will be the Met that sets out what they see fit at the conclusion of their work and I would not seek to set out what that may or may not be.”

But Scotland Yard pointed to College of Policing guidance stating that the names of people dealt with by fixed penalty notices – the likely punishment for a breach of the coronavirus regulations – would not normally be disclosed.

“Identities of people dealt with by cautions, speeding fines and other fixed penalties – out-of-court disposals – should not be released or confirmed,” the guidance states.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “I can’t believe this needs saying.

“The public have a right to know if the Prime Minister is found to have committed an offence by the police.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “This stinks of a cover-up by Number 10. Even Richard Nixon believed a country deserves to know whether their leader is a crook.

“Boris Johnson must come clean with the public and resign if he’s broken the rules and been fined by the police.”

Officers are investigating 12 separate gatherings – including three that Boris Johnson is known to have attended and one in the Prime Minister’s Downing Street flat – to find out whether coronavirus lockdown laws were broken.

Mr Raab, the Justice Secretary, said Mr Johnson “believes he acted in good faith at all times”, suggesting the Prime Minister does not think he personally did anything wrong.

The Met is examining hundreds of documents and photographs in relation to the 12 events in 2020 and 2021 held while England was under coronavirus restrictions.

The evidence was passed to the police by the investigation team led by senior official Sue Gray whose interim report on Monday highlighted “failures of leadership and judgment” at the heart of Government but did not point the finger of blame at any individuals.

Her conclusions were limited following a request by the Metropolitan Police to make only limited references to the events under investigation, leaving it to Scotland Yard to decide whether laws were broken.

But for Tory MP Tom Hunt (Ipswich), even the scant details were not “acceptable, excusable, or defensible”, he said in a statement.

He said he was not a “sycophant” and lashed out at colleagues who he suggested had morphed “into some kind of Corbynista groupie that ignores the reality of what’s happened”.

He said Mr Johnson had his support for now and that it was not the time to “depose the Prime Minister”, but that a line could not be drawn under the saga until the full report was published.

Mr Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Justice must be done and seen to be done.

“But I don’t think I need to lecture or indeed advise the Metropolitan Police about how to conduct an investigation.”

Asked whether Mr Johnson should quit if he is issued with a fixed penalty notice, Mr Raab said: “Let’s wait and see … Allow the police to conduct their investigation and see, when they have ascertained the facts, quite what they conclude.”

Mr Johnson’s position appears to be secure for now following a meeting with Tory MPs and peers on Monday night and the Prime Minister’s promise to make major changes to his Downing Street operation.

Mr Johnson also committed to publishing a fuller version of Ms Gray’s report once the police investigation has concluded – although it is not clear how detailed that will be and whether it will include the evidence submitted to the police.

“It’s not clear to me that there is anything more, other than any conclusions that she will draw once that investigation is concluded, that will come forward,” Mr Raab told LBC.

The Prime Minister also highlighted a greater role for Australian election guru Sir Lynton Crosby in an effort to bolster his support on the Tory benches.

Mr Raab said Sir Lynton “has got a good strategic nose and a good sense of the direction of public opinion”.

Mr Johnson endured a difficult time in the Commons chamber on Monday, where he told MPs: “I’m sorry for the things we simply didn’t get right and also sorry for the way this matter has been handled.”

But asked on Today what precisely the Prime Minister is personally sorry about, Mr Raab said: “He recognised that, as Sue Gray said, the standards expected in No 10 were not as they should have been.”

The Deputy Prime Minister said Mr Johnson “takes the organisational responsibility” for the failures identified but he was not commenting on individual cases because of the police investigation.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer repeated his call for Mr Johnson to quit.

“It’s no good him trying to blame politicians in general. There’s one person at the centre of this who has caused all of those problems and is subject to a criminal investigation because of his own behaviour,” Sir Keir told the BBC.

“That’s why I genuinely think that the time has come for him to go.”

Tory former Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell, who publicly told Mr Johnson in the Commons that he no longer supports him, said No 10 is being run like a “medieval court”.

“I think this is a crisis that is not going to go away and is doing very great damage to the party,” he told Today.

“It is more corrosive, in my judgment, than the expenses scandal was, and it will break the coalition that is the Conservative Party.”

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