Downing Street inquiry ‘set to find parties were not criminal’

Prime minister may still be reprimanded for his behaviour, reports say

Liam James
Friday 14 January 2022 00:51
Boris Johnson claims he didn’t know No 10 lockdown party was a party

An inquiry into parties in Downing Street during lockdown is reportedly expected to find the events did not break the law.

Sue Gray, the senior civil servant conducting the inquiry, has not uncovered sufficient evidence of criminality to refer the incidents to the police, The Times reports sources as saying.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that it is not conducting a criminal investigation into the gathering despite the prime minister confirming his attendance and apologsing. The force said it was in contact with the Cabinet Office over Ms Gray’s inquiry and would review its position if it receives evidence of potential criminal offences.

Boris Johnson may still be censured for a lack of judgement in attending the party, despite his claim that he thought it was a work event, according to reports.

Ms Gray is expected to criticise Downing Street culture and the blurred line between working and socialising. Whitehall sources told The Guardian her investigation would lay bare a “farcical” drinking culture.

She is also likely to avoid making a conclusion over whether the prime minister has breached the ministerial code as it does not fall within her remit.

The terms of reference of Ms Gray’s inquiry, as set out by the Cabinet Office, state that her primary aim is “to establish swiftly a general understanding of the nature of the gatherings, including attendance, the setting and the purpose, with reference to adherence to the guidance in place at the time”.

She is not required to recommend any actions, but the terms make clear that she can pass judgement on whether “individual disciplinary action is warranted”.

But there is doubt in Westminster that Ms Gray, a politically neutral and unelected civil servant, will see it as her role to reach a finding so unequivocal that it would force Mr Johnson from office.

Reports by government officials, no matter how critical, tend to employ diplomatic terms which allow elected politicians to decide for themselves if a colleague is deserving of punishment.

The Times reported Ms Gray may recommend disciplinary action against officials and special advisers who were involved in the events.

The Metropolitan Police has not launched an investigation into the gathering at Downing Street on 20 May 2020 that the prime minister has apologised for attending.

The force said it would review its position if Ms Gray’s inquiry were to find evidence of potential criminal offences.

Ms Gray has been given no deadline for her investigation but it is expected that the report of her findings will be published next week.

However, it has already been delayed several times as new allegations about parties emerged.

When ready the report will be delivered to Mr Johnson, who has pledged to publish it and make a statement to the House of Commons.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in