Christmas party scandal: Treasury staff had office drinks during November 2020 lockdown in England

Around two dozen civil servants attended drinks after working on the Autumn Spending Review

Some Treasury staff had office drinks last November while England was in lockdown.

Around two dozen civil servants who worked on the Autumn Spending Review last year attended drinks on November 25, 2020, The Times reports.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • The newspaper reported that Chancellor Rishi Sunak was not at the event and that it is understood he was not aware of it at the time.
  • The Treasury has confirmed that there were “impromptu drinks around their desks” after the spending review.
  • At the time, non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues were closed as well as pubs, bars and restaurants.
  • People were also urged to stay at home except for limited reasons including work if it could not be done from home.
  • It comes after more than a week of controversy over allegations of rule-breaking festivities in Downing Street in the run-up to last Christmas.

What’s been said

A Treasury spokesman said: “A number of HMT staff came into the office to work on the Spending Review 2020. We have been made aware that a small number of staff had impromptu drinks around their desks after the event.

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“The Treasury did not organise an in-person departmental party last Christmas.”

The spokesman also told the paper: “In line with the guidance at the time, a number of staff came into the office to work on the Spending Review 2020.

“We have been made aware that a small number of those staff had impromptu drinks around their desks after the event.”

Background

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It came as Boris Johnson’s ex-aide Dominic Cummings said there are “lots” of photos of parties in No 10 that will “inevitably get out”.

Mr Cummings dismissed defences from the Prime Minister’s allies that he would not have known about celebrations going on under his roof amid signs Mr Johnson’s popularity is slumping.

Government chief whip Mark Spencer insisted Downing Street staff “were not drinking alcohol” and partying during Covid restrictions after it emerged the Prime Minister’s press chief addressed staff at one event last Christmas.

No 10 said Mr Johnson retained full confidence in Jack Doyle to serve as communications director despite ITV reporting he addressed up to 50 people and made a speech at one party on December 18.

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