Partygate: Full timeline of government gatherings and Covid fines

All the events under scrunity since scandal began

Lizzie Dearden,Alastair Jamieson
Thursday 19 May 2022 16:15
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Will Partygate be the end of Boris Johnson? | Behind The Headlines

Police investigating Covid law-breaking in government during the pandemic say a total of 126 fines have now been issued to 83 people in the Partygate scandal.

The Metropolitan Police said it had concluded its Operation Hillman probe into rule breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall.

The force has not said who has been given Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) but Boris Johnson has previously admitted he and his wife Carrie are among them, having received one fine each.

Police said 53 fines were issued to 35 men and 73 fines were issued to 48 women. A total of 28 people were fined more than once, receiving between two and five FPNs.

In total, 16 events are being considered by civil servant Sue Gray who is compiling a report into Partygate.

Only 12 of the events were investigated by police under Operation Hillman. The Met did not say which of the gatherings resulted in fines, but did reveal that the offences related to eight dates.

Operation Hillman comprised 12 full time dedicated police officers and cost £460,000. Between 27 March 2020 and 18 July 2021, the Met issued referred 16,796 fines.

The Independent looks at all the claims of parties and investigations into gatherings across No 10, government departments and at Conservative Party HQ.

15 May 2020 – No 10 garden gathering

A joint investigation by The Independent and The Guardian revealed that a wine and pizza gathering was held in the No 10 rose garden on 15 May 2020 – despite rules limiting people from different households to one-on-one meetings outdoors. An image later published showed wine and cheese being consumed by the prime minister, Ms Johnson, and advisers including Dominic Cummings. Former health secretary Matt Hancock was also photographed in the Downing Street garden, after having delivered the day’s covid press conference. Mr Johnson has previously insisted “those people were at work, talking about work”. At the time, Covid laws banned gatherings of more than two people unless they met specific exemptions, such as being “for work purposes”.

No fines were issued for this event.

20 May 2020 – ‘Bring your own booze’

In a blog post, Mr Cummings dismissed the idea that the 15 May photograph depicted a party, insisting it was common practice for meetings to be held in the open air of the garden. However, he claimed that a “socially distanced drinks” event did take place on 20 May 2020. A leaked email sent from the PM’s private secretary showed that over 100 No 10 staff had been invited to the event and were told to “bring your own booze”. Mr Johnson subsequently apologised, confirming that he attended the event for around 25 minutes but assumed it was “a work event” – an excuse that drew laughs of incredulity in the Commons and mockery from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Fines were issued for this event, which police found to be a breach of Regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (Restriction on leaving, or being outside of, the place where you were living without reasonable excuse.)

Boris Johnson says he was ‘at work’ during No 10 garden gathering

18 June 2020 – Cabinet Office leaving do

Ms Gray’s interim report said a gathering in the 70 Whitehall building was held to mark the departure of a No 10 private secretary, reportedly former home affairs policy adviser Hannah Young, who left Downing Street to take up the role of deputy consul general in New York.

Fines were issued for this event, which police found to be a breach of Regulation 7 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (Restriction on participating in an indoor gathering consisting of two or more people)

19 June 2020 – Boris Johnson’s birthday

Downing Street staff held an afternoon birthday party for Mr Johnson at No 10. His wife, Carrie Johnson, led the surprise gathering where there was cake, a singing of happy birthday, and picnic food from M&S. A No 10 spokeswoman confirmed that a group of staff had “gathered briefly” in the Cabinet Room “to wish the prime minister a happy birthday”, adding: “He was there for less than 10 minutes.”

Fines were issued for this event, which police found to be a breach of Regulation 7 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (Restriction on participating in an indoor gathering consisting of two or more people)

Mr Sunak is said to have received his fixed penalty notice (PFN) for attending this event.

Boris Johnson was 'ambushed with a cake', claims loyal Tory MP

13 November 2020 – Lee Cain leaving speech and Downing Street ‘flat party’

Another allegation made by Mr Cummings was of a “flat party” in Mr Johnson’s official residence on 13 November 2020 – the same day he left No 10. Mr Cummings claimed staff “could hear the music playing loudly”. Asked at PMQs if there had been a party, Mr Johnson said “no” but added: “I’m sure that whatever happened the guidance was followed at all times.” Earlier in the day, Mr Johnson is reported to have given a brief leaving speech for Lee Cain, his director of communications. New lockdown laws had once again banned gatherings and leaving home “without reasonable excuse” at the time. Indoor gatherings were allowed in some circumstances if “required precautions” were undertaken.

Fines were issued for this date, although police did not specify for which event. Police said there had been a breach of Regulation 8 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 (Restriction on participating in an indoor gathering consisting of two or more people.)

27 November 2020 – Cleo Watson’s leaving event

Another leaving event was reported to have been held two weeks later — when the lockdown remained in place — for adviser Cleo Watson, with the PM personally delivering a speech while alcohol was consumed.

Police did not investigate this event but it is one of the events being looked at by Sue Gray.

10 December 2020 – Education department drinks event

Also under scrutiny is a social event reportedly held at the London offices of the Department for Education on 10 December 2020, instigated by the then-education secretary Gavin Williamson to thank his staff. The department admitted a “gathering of colleagues” took place on 10 December, with “drink and snacks brought by those attending”, adding: “Looking back we accept it would have been better not have gathered in this way at that particular time”. The law had changed again, including different levels of restrictions for different areas according to Covid rates. London was in Tier 2, which banned indoor social gatherings unless specific exemptions applied.

Police did not investigate this event and it will not form part of the Sue Gray’s inquiry.

14 December 2020 – Shaun Bailey’s Tory HQ party

Four days later, with Londoners still subject to Tier 2 restrictions, a party took place at the Conservative Party headquarters in Westminster. A picture of the gathering was later published by the The Mirror showing a catered buffet, leading to the resignation of Shaun Bailey from an official role at the London Assembly as chair of the police and crime committee. Disciplinary action was was taken against four CCHQ staff seconded to his unsuccessful London mayoral campaign.

Police did not investigate this event and it will not form part of Sue Gray’s inquiry.

15 December 2020 – Christmas quiz

No 10 staff were involved in a festive quiz, with invitations reportedly were sent out in advance. An image later published by the Sunday Mirror showed the PM flanked by colleagues, with one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat. After the photographic evidence emerged, Downing Street admitted the prime minister had “briefly” attended the quiz but insisted it was a virtual event and claimed he broke no rules. Tier 2 laws remained in force.

No fines were issued for this event.

16 December 2020 – Transport department drinks event

The Mirror reported senior civil servants were “boozing and dancing” at yet another event, this one allegedly planned by staff from transport secretary Grant Shapps’ office. A departmental spokesman said: “Fewer than a dozen staff who were working in the office had a low-key, socially distanced gathering ... where food and drink was consumed. We recognise this was inappropriate and apologise for the error of judgement.” At midnight, London had been moved into tougher Tier 3 restrictions and indoor gatherings remained banned.

No fines were issued for this event.

17 December 2020 – Two Cabinet Office drinks events and No 10 leaving do for Steve Higham

A leaving party was held at the Cabinet Office for the outgoing head of the civil service Covid taskforce, while a separate gathering was held in the Cabinet Office to hold an online Christmas quiz for the Cabinet Secretary’s private office. Separately, a leaving do was held at No 10 for a departing Downing Street official, reportedly Captain Steve Higham, one of Mr Johnson’s private secretaries. The Mirror, which first reported the event, said Mr Johnson was only there “for a few minutes”.

Police investigated the two Cabinet Office events.

Fines were issued for this date. Police found one or both of the Cabinet Office events was in breach of Paragraph 1 of Schedule 3 to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 – (Restriction on participating in an indoor gathering in the Tier 3 area consisting of two or more people.)

18 December 2020 ‘Christmas party’ that kicked off scandal

Allegations of a Christmas party held in No 10 were the focus of much anger. It happened while London remained in strict Tier 3 measures, and just a day before Mr Johnson imposed an effective lockdown in the capital and other swathes of the country. Mr Johnson was forced to address the issue in the Commons after the explosive leak of a video showing No 10 staff holding a mock press conference and making jokes about a Christmas party.

Sobbing Allegra Stratton resigns over No 10 party video

It led to the resignation of government aide Allegra Stratton and the PM announcing Ms Gray’s investigation, claiming he was “shocked” by the video. “I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up,” Mr Johnson told MPs.

Police investigated the event.

Fines were issued for the event, which police found to be in breach of Paragraph 1 of Schedule 3 to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 – (Restriction on participating in an indoor gathering in the Tier 3 area consisting of two or more people.)

14 January 2021 – More No 10 leaving drinks

A gathering was held in No 10 to mark the departure of two private secretaries. Reports have suggested the PM attended the leaving event, which was for a senior civil servant in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, according to The Telegraph. The other official’s identity is so far unknown.

Police investigated the event.

Fines were issued for the event, which police found to be in breach of Paragraph 3 of Schedule 3A to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 (Restriction on participating in an indoor gathering in the Tier 4 area consisting of two or more people.)

16 April 2021 – Leaving drinks on eve of Philip’s funeral

Two parties were held by Downing Street staff at No 10 on this date — the night before Prince Philip’s funeral. One was a leaving party for the director of communications James Slack, who now works as deputy editor-in-chief at The Sun newspaper, and the other was for Mr Johnson’s personal photographer. Boris Johnson was not at either party. Witnesses reportedly said “excessive alcohol” was drunk and attendees danced to music while at one point a staffer was allegedly sent to a local Co-op with a suitcase to buy bottles of wine.

Police investigated these events.

Fines were issued for this date, although police did not specify for which event. Police said there was a breach of Paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 (Restriction on participating in an outdoor gathering in the Step 2 area consisting of more than six people.)

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