Cressida Dick says Met Police will now investigate Downing Street parties held during lockdown

‘I can confirm the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 25 January 2022 15:15
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Cressida Dick confirms ‘Met is now investigating’ Downing Street partygate allegations

Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick has announced the force will now investigate “a number” of allegations of parties held in No 10 during Covid lockdown restrictions.

It represents another severe blow to Boris Johnson, whose political future already hangs in the balance ahead of the long-awaited report by senior civil servant, Sue Gray.

It also comes after fresh claims that Downing Street held a birthday party for the prime minister in the Cabinet Room on 19 June 2020 – despite rules banning indoor socialising.

Revealing the new probe, the Met commissioner said she understood “deep public concern” over the reports of rule-busting events held in government buildings while the vast majority of the public followed the pandemic rules.

Ms Dick told the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee: “We have a long-established and effective working relationship with the Cabinet Office, who have an investigative capability. As you well know they have been carrying out an investigation over the last few weeks.

“What I can tell you this morning is that as a result 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 officers had assessed “several other events” that had taken place at Downing Street and Whitehall, but “on the available information, these other events are assessed as not reaching the threshold for criminal investigation”.

Ms Dick said: “Throughout the pandemic the Met has sought, as I have said, to take a proportionate approach. I should stress the fact that the Met is investigating does not 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, but I can assure you that we will give updates at significant points as we would normally do.”

The terms of reference of Ms Gray’s long-awaited inquiry state that “if during the course of the work any evidence emerges of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence, the matter will be referred to the police and the Cabinet Office’s work may be paused”.

However, after Ms Dick’s announcement, a Cabinet Office spokesperson made clear on Tuesday the work would not be paused, but it was not immediately clear whether the intervention would delay the report. It was expected to be published this week.

“There is in ongoing contact with the Metropolitan Police Service,” they added. There was no immediate response from Downing Street.

Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said he “welcomed” the Met police investigation, and claimed it would help to “draw a line” under the issue.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, who has been granted an urgent Commons question on the issue later today, said: “We welcome this investigation by the Metropolitan police. With Boris Johnson’s Downing Street now under police investigation, how on earth can he think he can stay on as prime minister?

Cabinet Office say Whitehall chief Sue Gray’s work into rule-busting events ‘continuing’

“Millions of people are struggling to pay the bills, but Boris Johnson and his government are too wrapped up in scandal to do anything about it.

“Boris Johnson is a national distraction. Conservative MPs should stop propping him up and he should finally do the decent thing and resign.”

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, also welcomed the investigation, saying: “The public rightly expect the police to uphold the law without fear or favour, no matter who that involves, and I have been clear that members of the public must be able to expect the highest standards from everyone, including the prime minister and those around him.

“No one is above the law. There cannot be one rule for the government and another for everyone else.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Ms Dick, who has come under fire for the Met’s handling of the allegations in No 10 in recent weeks, also insisted: “We police without fear or favour.

“We police impartially and we police in an operationally independent manner.”

Recognising “deep public concern”, she added: “The vast majority of people have acted responsibly during the pandemic, many, many people - including many Londoners and my colleagues - have made huge sacrifices and they have suffered considerable loss during the pandemic.”

It was later announced the Met’s police lead for Covid-19 and deputy chief commissioner, Jane Connors, would be responsible for the investigation.

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.”

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