Transparency of Gray report questioned amid claims staff kept back evidence

The report is expected to be released later this week – but it is unclear in what format.

Geraldine Scott
Monday 24 January 2022 13:54
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Downing Street has suggested it may be up to Boris Johnson to decide what is published from Sue Gray’s report into the “partygate” scandal amid concerns staff were keeping back key evidence because it would be seen by the Prime Minister

Boris Johnson’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings said further evidence of parties held across Whitehall, including in No 10, during coronavirus restrictions was being suppressed by staff “because they know the PM will see everything SG (Sue Gray) collects”.

Downing Street suggested it could be up to Mr Johnson how much of the senior official’s report is made public.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire. (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Ms Gray has been tasked with investigating a litany of allegations about parties and gatherings held in 2020 and 2021 while a variety of Covid restrictions were in place.

These include a “bring your own booze” event at No 10 on May 20 2020, which the Prime Minister has admitted attending but that he said he thought was a work event.

The probe also takes in two leaving bashes held in Downing Street the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral last year.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said “it’s very much our intention to publish the findings in full as set out in the terms of reference”.

But asked if it was up to the Prime Minister or Ms Gray what could be published, the spokesman said: “I think it is a report that comes to the Prime Minister.”

Mr Johnson had previously said the report would be published in the House of Commons library.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has said the report “must be published in its entirety with all accompanying evidence”.

It comes as Mr Cummings, who left Downing Street in November 2020 and has been critical of the Government since, claimed evidence was being kept from the inquiry because staff fear it would be seen by Mr Johnson.

Dominic Cummings, former chief adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

He suggested that meant that further evidence, including photos, will keep leaking after her report.

“I know others are very worried about handing things to the Cabinet Office because they know the PM will see everything SG collects,” Mr Cummings said on his blog.

“This inevitably means that evidence, including photos, is not given to her and instead will keep leaking after her report. (To stress, this is a consequence of beliefs about the PM’s integrity, not SG’s.)

“Other damaging stories will come out until he is gone.”

He suggested that “many officials are desperate” to force Mr Johnson out this week.

Mr Cummings said he had given evidence to the inquiry in writing so Mr Johnson could not “invent things”.

He said: “When SG (Sue Gray) asked to speak to me I emailed to the effect: if we speak the PM will invent nonsense and spin it to the media and you and I will both have problems, let’s keep everything in writing, therefore he cannot invent things I’ve supposedly said to you, there is only a written record, this makes both our lives easier.

“She agreed. So I have answered questions in writing and will answer further questions in writing if she wants.

“But I will not speak and therefore provide the PM with more chances to lie and confuse everybody.”

Downing Street and ministers have repeatedly stressed Ms Gray’s investigation is independent, but have been unable to point towards what makes it so.

Reports suggested Ms Gray had spoken to Metropolitan Police officers stationed at Downing Street as part of her investigations, and that the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie could be interviewed as part of questions over an alleged gathering at the couples flat.

Ms Gray’s report is expected to be released later this week and its findings could determine Mr Johnson’s future as Prime Minister.

Sue Gray, second permanent secretary at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Gov.uk/PA)

Many Tory MPs are awaiting the outcome of the report to decide whether to submit letters of no confidence in their leader.

Senior Conservative MP David Davis told the Today programme: “I like Boris, I’ve known him for 30 years but the truth is we’re now into an issue of trust.

“I don’t think any of the proposed people (to replace him as Prime Minister), I’ve seen in the papers have a trust issue.”

Former Brexit secretary Mr Davis said he will wait “three or four days” after the Gray report before asking the Prime Minister to resign.

Last week, Mr Davis called on the Prime Minister to “go” and told him: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.”

He added on Monday: “I think it’s pretty likely I would want him to go, but I will wait for those few days.

“At the moment he has a legacy of having delivered Brexit and having brought us through the pandemic.

“As we carry on as we may do, month in, month out, it will do huge damage to the Conservative Party.”

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