LONDON, Jan 27: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday vowed to publish in full the findings of an official report into alleged breaches of lockdown rules with parties in his Downing Street office and across government as pressure mounted on him to step down.
The much-anticipated Cabinet Office inquiry report, being compiled by top civil servant Sue Gray and said to be in its final stages, is expected to be handed to Downing Street imminently.
The Opposition and members of Johnson’s own Conservative Party have insisted that it should be published in its entirety once handed in by the Cabinet Office.
During a visit to North Wales, when asked by reporters if it would be published in full, Johnson said: “Of course. I can’t go beyond what I said yesterday, but I stick to what I said to the House of Commons.”
In the Commons on Wednesday, Johnson, 57, said “when I receive it, I will do exactly what I said”, construed by some to fall short of a full commitment.
But on Thursday, the embattled Prime Minister sought to dismiss such inferences and also that Downing Street was somehow behind a delay in the report’s ultimate publication this week.
“Absolutely not. But you’ve got to let the independent inquiry go on,” he said, with reference to any attempts to delay the report’s release.
The Opposition Labour Party has demanded that anything other than the document being published “in full” would amount to a “cover up”.
“We will pursue every option to make sure that report is out in full,” said Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
“The findings will be made public in line with the terms of reference. It is our intention to publish those findings as received,” a Downing Street spokesperson insisted.
And on the perceived delay in its release, the spokesperson added: “It is simply a reflection of the fact that we have not received the findings and don’t know its format, that’s why it remains our intention to publish it as received.”
Gray, described as a no-nonsense and dedicated civil servant, is understood to want the report to be published in full and also that her findings will cover all alleged events during lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, not just those now being investigated by the Metropolitan Police for the “most serious and flagrant breach” of coronavirus regulations.
The so-called “partygate” scandal, which erupted towards the end of last year, has dominated much of this month with a string of allegations around parties organised at 10 Downing Street and other Whitehall government departments despite strict lockdown restrictions on gatherings under the coronavirus legislation in force at the time.
Johnson’s own participation has been linked with at least two events – a garden party on May 20, 2020, and a birthday cake get together for his 56th birthday on June 19 the following month.
The rules in force at the time imposed a strict ban on social gatherings with anyone outside your own household. Johnson has since apologised in the House of Commons and said he believed these were work events.
Meanwhile, calls for him to resign as Prime Minister continue to gather momentum from the Opposition benches as well as within his own party.
Most Tories have indicated that they are waiting for the Gray report before deciding whether to submit letters of no confidence in Johnson, potentially triggering a leadership contest.
At least 54 Tory MPs must write to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, to trigger such a vote.
On Tuesday, Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick confirmed that her officers were looking into potential breaches of COVID laws at a number of events in Government buildings since 2020. (PTI)