Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have rejected calls to resign after being issued with fines for breaking lockdown laws.
Scotland Yard said Mr Johnson had been fined for attending “a gathering of two or more people indoors” in the Cabinet Room on 19 June 2020, which was banned at the time, along with the Chancellor.
The pair have now both paid fines and apologised for attending the PM’s birthday bash in Downing Street during Covid restrictions.
However, Mr Johnson has dodged questions over whether he would resign, instead insisting he wanted to get on with the job, which was echoed by Mr Sunak.
The PM’s wife Carrie Johnson was also fined by police for a breach of lockdown laws. Reports suggest that up to 30 people attended the do and sang Happy Birthday in the Cabinet Room.
A No 10 spokesman said: “The Met Police have now explained that the FPN (fixed penalty notice) issued to the PM will be in relation to the following incident:
“On June 19 2020 at the Cabinet Room, 10 Downing Street, between 1400 and 1500 you participated in a gathering of two or more people indoors in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street.”
What has Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak said about the fines?
Mr Johnson has now said that he has paid the fine and has offered a “fulsome apology” for the incident.
He said: “Today I’ve received a fixed penalty notice from the Metropolitan police relating to a Downing Street Event on 19 June 2020.
“Let me say immediately, I have paid the fine and want to offer a fulsome apology.
“There was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2pm lasting less than 10 minutes during which people I worked with passed on their good wishes.
“In that time it did not occur to me this might have been a breach of the rules. The police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation.”
Mr Sunak released a statement which read: “I can confirm I have received a fixed penalty notice from the Metropolitan Police with regards to a gathering held on June 19 in Downing Street.
“I offer an unreserved apology.
“I understand that for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence. I respect the decision that has been made and have paid the fine.
“I know people sacrificed a great deal during Covid, and they will find this situation upsetting. I deeply regret the frustration and anger caused and I am sorry.
“Like the Prime Minister, I am focused on delivering for the British people at this challenging time.”
A spokesperson for Mrs Johnson has also confirmed that she has paid the fine, saying: “Mrs Johnson has paid a fixed penalty notice relating to a gathering on the afternoon of 19 June 2020. Whilst she believed that she was acting in accordance with the rules at the time, Mrs Johnson accepts the Metropolitan Police’s findings and apologises unreservedly.”
At least 30 more fines will also be issued to attendees at Covid-lockdown breaching parties held at Downing Street and Whitehall during the pandemic, the Met Police said.
The force said officers have now made more than 50 referrals for fixed penalty notices to the ACRO Criminal Records Office over breaches of Covid regulations.
It comes after the police issued 20 fines at the end of March as part of Operation Hillman.
Scotland Yard said it was “making every effort to progress this investigation at speed” with the possibility that more fines are still to come.
What the Met Police said
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said: “The investigation into allegations of breaches of Covid-19 regulations in Whitehall and Downing Street continues to progress.
“As of Tuesday, 12 April 2022, we have made over 50 referrals for fixed penalty notices (FPN) to the ACRO Criminal Records Office for breaches of Covid-19 regulations who, following the referral, issue the FPNs to the individual.
“We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed, this includes continuing to assess significant amounts of investigative material from which further referrals may be made to ACRO.”
What has the reaction been to the ‘partygate’ fines?
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his position on Boris Johnson’s fitness to be Prime Minister “hasn’t changed”.
Speaking during a campaign visit in Glasgow, he said: “I don’t think he’s any longer got the authority to govern.
“You can’t ask the country to comply with very difficult Covid rules whilst you’re breaking them in your own home and in your own workplace – that’s been my position for some months now.
“These fines just underscore how wrong the Prime Minister was to pretend to the country – and hope that it would never be found out – that nothing had gone on in his home or in his workplace that broke the law when we now know there was widespread criminality.”
Sir Keir Starmer has called on both the Prime Minister and Chancellor to resign, adding: “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign.
“The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern. Britain deserves better.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called on the Prime Minister to resign over the latest fines, saying he “cannot be trusted”, while SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford also called for both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak’s resignations after they “insulted the millions of people who faithfully followed the rules that they set”.
He said: “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak must now resign. The Prime Minister repeatedly misled Parliament, lied to the public and at times even simply laughed it off, taking the public for fools.
“In reality, Johnson and Sunak have overseen one of the biggest lockdown breaches that has led to the Metropolitan Police issuing a staggering number of fines for rule-breaking.”
Cabinet ministers have come out in defense of Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak.
In a tweet, foreign secretary Liz Truss said: “The Prime Minister has apologised and taken responsibility for what happened in Downing Street.”
Sajid Javid also backed both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak, saying: “It was right for the police to take breaches in No10 seriously and for the PM to apologise. He and the Chancellor are leading our country through huge challenges & they continue to have my full support.
“He and the Chancellor are delivering for Britain on many fronts including on the international security crisis we face. They have my 100% backing.”
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries added: “PM has been clear about what happened on 19th June 2020 & offered a full apology. It was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room, less than 10 minutes during a busy working day. PM is at his best when delivering on the priorities of the British people which he will continue to do.”
What has happened so far with the ‘Partygate’ investigation
Officers are continuing to investigate 12 gatherings held in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office which allegedly broke Covid restrictions.
The fixed penalty notices issued last month are thought to relate to one of the earliest events under investigation – a leaving do held in the Cabinet Office on 18 June 2020 to mark the departure of a private secretary.
The leaving do in 70 Whitehall was reportedly held for Hannah Young, a former home affairs policy adviser who was taking up the post of deputy consul general in New York.
Around 20 people were reportedly in attendance and alcohol was consumed. This was not one of the events under investigation where Boris Johnson attended.
The £50 fines are said to have been delivered by email and issued to junior civil servants and the Met made clear that further fines could be issued as they continued with their inquiries.
The names of those fined by police for their part in attending gatherings amid lockdown restrictions have not been confirmed.
No 10 has so far only promised to confirm if Mr Johnson or Cabinet Secretary Simon Case are given a fixed-penalty notice.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said after the first fines were issued last month: “The identities of people dealt with in this way would not be released or confirmed, that’s what the Met themselves have made clear.
“Obviously recognising the significant public interest in the Prime Minister we are committed to updating should that occur in his case.”
Which parties are being investigated?
The Met Police is investigating 12 gatherings which took placed behind closed doors in Downing Street and Whitehall while Covid restrictions were in place.
Gatherings currently under investigation as part of Operation Hillman include:
- A Downing Street garden party which took place on 20 May 2020
- A birthday gathering which took place for Boris Johnson in the Cabinet Room on 19 June 2020
- A leaving party for a special advisor on 13 November 2020
The Prime Minister is said to have attended all three of these parties, but a further nine are also under investigation.