A senior No 10 official became aware of parts of Sue Gray’s report during lockdown parties, Downing Street has confirmed.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisted no part of Partygate’s scathing dossier had been altered by No 10, but admitted extracts had been shared with a staff member responsible for the welfare, probably Tuesday.
Asked if there had been any interaction between No10 and Sue Gray’s team over what should be in the report, the Prime Minister’s spokesman replied: “Not to my knowledge.
“The Prime Minister and his political team first saw the report on Wednesday morning when you saw confirmation from the Cabinet Office that it had been submitted.
“A senior No. 10 official had already been made aware of elements of the report as part of his responsibilities for staff welfare.
“But for the avoidance of doubt, no part of the report has been altered by No10.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said he did not know if the official had any conversations with staff about the contents of the report.
It comes amid fresh questions about Ms Gray’s report after it emerged she had dropped her investigation into an ‘Abba party’ at the Downing Street flat.
Ms Gray said she felt it was not ‘appropriate or proportionate’ to continue the ‘limited’ progress she had made in reviewing the event after the Metropolitan Police launched their investigation.
No10 was unable to say whether Carrie Johnson had seen the part of the report relating to the gathering in flat No11 beforehand, but defended her presence as she lives there.
The spokesperson was also unable to say whether any minutes were taken at the rally.
When asked if there had been any communications with Sue Gray’s team and No10 staff about the contents of the report, he replied: “Not to my knowledge”.
It came as the Prime Minister’s official spokesman apologized for repeatedly making false statements to reporters about the parties as No 10 tried to scare off the initial revelations.
Saying there were shortcomings in the way the saga was handled, he added: “The prime minister has apologized for that and I’m happy to apologize for that as well.”
But he declined to say whether anyone would be disciplined and said the public would not be told if anyone was disciplined in the future, even anonymously.
“As standard practice, we don’t confirm when individuals are disciplined – that’s an internal civil service process,” he said.
The spokesman declined to say whether he attended any parties, saying: ‘I’m here to answer questions on behalf of the Prime Minister – I’m not here to talk about myself as an individual.
When asked if the Prime Minister had lied to him, the spokesman replied: ‘No, the Prime Minister has made his position on this very clear.
The spokesman declined to say whether he had offered his resignation, telling reporters: “I’m not going to go into private individuals.”
Asked if the Prime Minister had agreed to mislead Parliament, the spokesman replied: “Obviously…there have been events and instances where the rules have been broken. That’s why he corrected the record and apologized.
Asked who ‘assured’ Boris Johnson that no rules were broken, he said: ‘I’m not going to go into detail about who provided advice to the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, new advice introduced earlier this year – since Sue Gray’s interim report – will urge civil servants not to drink to excess.
It makes clear that “excessive consumption or consumption sufficient to impair judgement” of alcohol is not acceptable – but “occasional and limited consumption” may be acceptable in certain circumstances. Alcohol is not completely prohibited.
Asked if staff would be given a breathalyzer test, the spokesperson said: ‘No, there will have to be an element of judgment here.’
When asked how, given that he had given false information, he felt able to continue to do his job, the spokesman told reporters: “I apologize for the way the events that followed were managed.
“Beyond that, I will obviously continue to answer your questions as candidly as within the parameters that I am able to work with.”