Johnson 'had opportunity' to stop lockdown parties but didn't, MPs told

Officials claim the former prime minister was warned against saying all the Covid rules had been followed.

Boris Johnson could have stopped Covid lockdown parties but didn’t, Downing Street official tells MPs No10 Downing St

Boris Johnson “had the opportunity to shut down” lockdown gatherings in Downing Street when he was prime minister but “allowed the culture to continue”, MPs have been told.

An unnamed No 10 official has said to the committee investigating the former Tory leader that instead of stopping the parties, he joined in.

The claim is detailed in evidence provided to the Privileges Committee, which will determine whether Johnson knowingly misled parliament.

The cross-party group of MPs published 110 pages of evidence ahead of Johnson’s televised questioning by the group on Wednesday afternoon.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has admitted to misleading MPs but said it wasn’t ‘intentional’.

On February 7, one Downing Street official told the committee: “The former prime minister often saw and joined these gatherings, either he was invited by Spads (special advisers) or spotted them whilst walking up to his flat.

“The route he took down the corridor looks straight into the press room and vestibule so it’s impossible not to see.

“He had the opportunity to shut them down but joined in, made speeches, had a drink with staff.

“He could have taken the issue up with Martin Reynolds, his principal private secretary, to shut them down.

“He could see what was happening and allowed the culture to continue.”

Other officials, who were in Downing Street when Johnson was prime minister, denied telling him that no guidance was broken during the parties.

Cabinet secretary Simon Case told the inquiry that he was not aware of any officials giving Johnson that assurance.

Jack Doyle, who was Johnson’s communications chief when the partygate story broke, said he did not tell him that all Covid guidance was followed.

And former senior aide to Johnson, Martin Reynolds, said he warned against claiming that all rules had been followed before Johnson issued a denial to Parliament.

The ex-principal private secretary said Johnson had agreed to delete the mention of guidance before going on to make the denial at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQ).

Reynolds said he recalled asking Johnson about a proposed line to say during PMQs “suggesting that all rules and guidance had been followed”.

Evidence suggests Boris Johnson was warned against saying all Covid guidance had been followed at Downing Street gatherings.

“He did not welcome the interruption but told me that he had received reassurances that the comms event was within the rules,” the former adviser said.

“I accepted this but questioned whether it was realistic to argue that all guidance had been followed at all times, given the nature of the working environment in No 10. He agreed to delete the reference to guidance.”

But on December 8 2021, Johnson went on to tell the Commons “the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times”.

The former Tory leader has admitted to misleading MPs but denied doing so “intentionally or recklessly”.

Johnson could be suspended from the House of Commons for several days if he is found to have knowingly misled MPs.

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