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by Louise Wilson
25 May 2022
Breaking: Gatherings 'not in line with Covid guidance' says Sue Gray report

A gathering in No 10 Downing Street on the departure of a special adviser in November 2020

Breaking: Gatherings 'not in line with Covid guidance' says Sue Gray report

Several gatherings which took place at Downing Street over a 20-month period were "not in line with Covid guidance at the time", a senior civil servant has concluded.

The long-awaited Sue Gray report said it was clear from the police investigation that 83 individuals who attended these events breached Covid regulations and guidance. 

Fines handed out by the Metropolitan Police related to 12 events between May 2020 and April 2021.

Last month both Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were handed fixed penalty notices for breaking lockdown rules.

Gray’s investigation covered a further four events, though she added that “it is possible that events took place which were not the subject of the investigation”.

Her report includes a breakdown of the 16 events and photographs of Johnson at the one in June 2020 for his birthday (for which he received a fine) and another in November 2020.

She said the findings “illustrate some attitudes and behaviours inconsistent with” Covid guidance.

Placing responsibility with leaders in government, Gray added: “The events that I investigated were attended by leaders in government. Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen.

“It is also the case that some of the more junior civil servants believed that their involvement in some of these events was permitted given the attendance of senior leaders.

“The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture.”

However, her report also concluded that the parties “did not reflect the prevailing culture in government and the civil service at the time”.

The BBC is reporting that the Prime Minister will tell MPs in a statement in the Commons this afternoon that the report should “allow us all the move on”.

He is expected to say: “I accept full responsibility for my failings. I am humbled by the whole experience. We have learned our lesson.”

Gray’s report welcomes a number of moves made to improve the culture in Downing Street and Whitehall following her initial report published in January.

That included guidance on consumption of alcohol in the workplace, creating “clearer lines of leadership and accountability”, and more accessible ways in which staff can report any concerns.

While disciplinary action is outwith the scope of the Gray report, she said she hoped any action taken against junior civil servants in particular would take into account that many of them attended events organised or attended by their superiors.

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