Police issue about 50 more fines in Downing Street ‘partygate’ investigation

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor were previously hit with fixed penalty notices over a birthday bash in No 10 in June 2020.

Amy Gibbons
Thursday 12 May 2022 12:09
A police officer stands at the door of the Prime Minister’s official residence in Downing Street (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
A police officer stands at the door of the Prime Minister’s official residence in Downing Street (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

About 50 more fines have been issued by police investigating possible lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street and across Whitehall.

It brings the number of fines to more than 100, including Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak who were hit with fixed penalty notices in April over a birthday party held for the Prime Minister in the Cabinet Room in No 10 in June 2020.

It is understood that Mr Johnson has not received another fine, but the police investigation continues.

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 supports Mr Johnson, while Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, also chose not to answer when asked why the PM would not resign, despite Sir Keir Starmer’s promise to do so if he was 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 previously said it “did not occur” to him the gathering to mark his 56th birthday was a violation of coronavirus rules, but that he “now humbly accepts” he did breach Covid-19 laws.

He is alleged to have been at six of the 12 events being examined by the force, meaning it is possible 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.

“All of this will become clear with the end of the investigation.”

There have been ongoing calls for Mr Johnson 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 an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray 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.

Boris Johnson previously said it ‘did not occur’ to him the gathering to mark his 56th birthday was a violation of coronavirus rules (Jacob King/PA)

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to stand down if he is fined for breaching coronavirus regulations, after he was filmed last year drinking beer with staff in a party office in Durham.

Asked in an interview broadcast on Thursday if he too should resign in the event Sir Keir steps down, 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 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.”

On Wednesday, Communities Secretary Michael Gove said it was “bonkeroony” to suggest Mr Johnson should have to resign over lockdown parties in Downing Street.

Minister of State, 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, Ed Davey, said who said they reflected the “shocking scale of law-breaking” in Johnson’s Downing Street and “the extent of his lies”.

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