Long-awaited Sue Gray report into parties at No 10 set to be published

The long-awaited report into gatherings that broke lockdown rules is expected to be released.

Long-awaited Sue Gray report into parties at No 10 set to be published ITV
Publication of the report by Sue Gray was put on hold until after the Metropolitan Police had completed its investigation.

The long-awaited report by Sue Gray into lockdown parties held across Downing Street and Whitehall during the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to be published.

However, it has not been a straightforward process in getting to this point.

An initial, limited report was published by the senior civil servant back in January.

The document ran to a total of 12 pages, two of which were blank, one of which was the front cover, and another two pages set out a timeline of coronavirus regulations.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds up his birthday cake as he visits Bovingdon Primary Academy, the cake was made by the staff at Bovingdon Primary Academy in Hemel Hempstead during Covid-19.No10 Downing St
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds up his birthday cake as he visits Bovingdon Primary Academy, the cake was made by the staff at Bovingdon Primary Academy in Hemel Hempstead during Covid-19.

It had been significantly scaled back due to the ongoing Metropolitan Police investigation into the matter.

Despite its brevity, the published findings of the report said there was a “serious failure” over the gatherings which took place, and that they were “difficult to justify”.

But last week, the Metropolitan Police concluded its investigation, with 126 fines being issued for breaches of Covid regulations.

Now that the police have completed their enquiries, there have been calls for the report to be published in full.

The Prime Minister can be seen in an exclusive photo published by ITV News.ITV
The Prime Minister can be seen in an exclusive photo published by ITV News.

On Monday, ITV News released photographs that showed Boris Johnson raising a glass at a leaving party in Downing Street at the height of the pandemic in November 2020.

The pictures raise further questions for Johnson, who has previously insisted that “all guidance was followed completely” at No 10.

If a minister is found to have knowingly misled the House of Commons, it has traditionally been seen as a resigning matter.

But in this long-running saga, how did we get here?

STV News takes a look back at the timeline that brought about the partygate scandal.

May 20, 2020: ‘Bring Your Own Booze’ party

A leaked email from the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, showed No 10 staff were invited to “bring your own booze” to an event in the Downing Street garden.

Johnson has admitted he was there for 25 minutes but said he thought it was a “work event” to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic.

Earlier that month initial lockdown rules in England had been relaxed, permitting people to leave home for outdoor recreation.

Rules around socialising were also changed, with people allowed to meet one person from outside their household, providing the encounter was socially distanced and took place outside.

However, outdoor gatherings with multiple people from other households were not allowed at the time.

June 18, 2020: Cabinet Office leaving do

Senior civil servant Sue Gray’s interim report said a gathering in the 70 Whitehall building was held to mark the departure of a No 10 private secretary.

The event had not previously been disclosed but The Telegraph said the official in question is former home affairs policy adviser Hannah Young, who left Downing Street to take up the role of deputy consul general in New York.

The newspaper said it understood about 20 people attended, with alcohol consumed.

At that time people were only allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to six, as long as they remained two metres apart.

But the Government guidance said: “If you are in someone else’s garden, you must not go inside to help the host carry the food out or to help with the washing up.”

June 19, 2020: Boris Johnson’s 56th birthday

Downing Street has admitted staff “gathered briefly” in the Cabinet Room in what was reportedly a surprise get-together for the Prime Minister organised by his now wife Carrie.

The PA news agency was told that Lulu Lytle, the interior designer behind lavish renovations of the Downing Street flat, briefly attended while undertaking work there.

However, No 10 has denied a report that, later the same evening, family and friends were hosted upstairs to celebrate the occasion.

The law at the time prohibited two or more people from different households being indoors at the same time.

It was interpreted that someone from a different household would be breaking the law if they went indoors just to use the toilet, or walk through the house, if it was not empty.

November 13, 2020: Downing Street flat do

Mrs Johnson reportedly hosted parties in the official flat over No 11 where she and her husband live, including one event on November 13, the night of Dominic Cummings’ acrimonious departure.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s wife called the claim “total nonsense”.

But reports have since suggested that the Prime Minister was seen heading up to the flat on the night in question, with the Mail On Sunday stating that Abba songs, including The Winner Takes It All, were heard coming from the residence.

Cummings, former de facto chief-of-staff at No 10, has alleged there are photographs of parties held at the flat during lockdown and said he has spoken to people who heard music coming from the Johnsons’ accommodation on the night he left Downing Street.

A second national lockdown for England began on November 5.

People were ordered to stay at home during this period and only leave under a limited number of exceptions, not including gatherings.

Different households were banned from mixing indoors or in private gardens, unless in a support bubble.

November 13, 2020: Leaving party for senior aide

According to reports at the time, Johnson gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his departing director of communications and a close ally of Cummings.

At the time organisers of large gatherings of more than 30 people could have been fined £10,000.

Pictures were published in May this year by ITV News which showed that Johnson was in attendance at a gathering in Downing Street on this date.

He was seen in photographs raising a glass, with others also holding alcoholic beverages and bottles sitting on tables.

In the Commons, Johnson told MPs that there was no party held on this date.

December 17, 2020: Cabinet Office ‘Christmas party’

Cabinet secretary Simon Case removed himself from the inquiry into Whitehall parties – to be replaced by Gray – after reports emerged of a gathering in the Cabinet Office.

It was reported that the do had been organised by a private secretary in Case’s team, and that it was noted in digital calendars as “Christmas party!” and included an online quiz.

The Cabinet Office said Case played no part in the event “but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own”.

Earlier that month, England introduced a tier system, with the majority of the country, including London, in Tier 2, where the restrictions meant a ban on households mixing indoors, and pubs and restaurants only able to sell alcohol with a “substantial meal”.

However, days prior to the event, London moved into Tier 3, meaning the hospitality sector had to close except for takeaways, and groups of six could only meet in outdoor public spaces.

December 15 2020: Online Christmas quiz in No 10

Police initially said they did not intend to investigate the quiz, during which the Prime Minister appeared on contestants’ screens.

However they later said they would review the decision after a photograph emerged of Johnson alongside an open bottle of sparkling wine.

December 17, 2020: Leaving drinks for former Covid Taskforce head

The former director-general of the Government’s Covid Taskforce, Kate Josephs, said she was “truly sorry” over leaving drinks held in the Cabinet Office.

December 17, 2020: No 10 leaving do

A leaving do was held for a departing Downing Street official.

The Telegraph reported that the staff member in question was Captain Steve Higham, then one of Johnson’s private secretaries, who advised on defence and national security issues.

The Mirror, which first reported the event before the police investigation began, said Mr Johnson was only there “for a few minutes”.

Capt Higham became Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales in July 2021.

December 18, 2020: Downing Street Christmas party

Officials and advisers reportedly made speeches, enjoyed a cheese board, drank together and exchanged Secret Santa gifts, although the Prime Minister is not thought to have attended.

Johnson’s spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, resigned after a video emerged of her joking about a “fictional party” at a mock press conference.

A day before the party home secretary Priti Patel had accused Tory MP Tobias Ellwood of breaching coronavirus rules by attending a Christmas dinner for 27 guests.

January 14, 2021: More Downing Street leaving drinks

A gathering was held in No 10 to mark the departure of two private secretaries.

Reports have suggested the Prime Minister attended the leaving event, which was for a senior civil servant in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, according to The Telegraph.

The other official’s identity is so far unknown.

National restrictions were reintroduced for a third time on January 6.

The rules during the third lockdown were more like those in the first lockdown, meaning people were once again told to stay at home.

However, people could still form support bubbles but a gathering, similar to the one on January 14, was not allowed.

Police could issue fines starting at £200 in England for those breaking the rules.

April 16, 2021: Two leaving parties on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral

The night before the Queen sat alone at the funeral of her husband of more than 70 years, in compliance with Covid rules at the time, two leaving dos were reportedly held in No 10.

Downing Street apologised to Buckingham Palace after reported details emerged of boozy drinks parties, including one for outgoing communications director James Slack.

Socialising indoors with people from other households was not allowed and meeting others outdoors was limited to groups of six people or two households.

January 12, 2022: Douglas Ross calls for Johnson to step down as Prime Minister

The Scottish Conservative leader called for Johnson to resign, as he said his position as Prime Minister was “untenable”.

Ross was amongst a number of Conservative MPs who submitted letters of no confidence to the party’s influential 1922 Committee seeking to trigger a leadership election.

However, Ross later U-turned on his position in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, insisting on the importance of unity in the face of aggression from Vladimir Putin.

January 31, 2022: Sue Gray report published, but not in full

Senior civil servant Gray published her report into the lockdown-breaking gatherings held during the pandemic.

However, the report was significantly redacted, due to the Metropolitan Police carrying out their own investigation.

Despite several key, specific details being excluded from the document, it was still made clear by Gray that there had been a “serious failure” and that the gatherings should not have happened.

In a statement to Parliament following the report’s publication, Johnson apologised as he told MPs that he accepted Gray’s findings.

March 10, 2022: Douglas Ross withdraws call for Johnson to resign as PM

The Scottish Conservative leader withdrew his letter seeking to trigger a no confidence vote in Johnson.

Ross pointed to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia as he said that the UK Government must be supported in the action it was taking against Vladimir Putin’s regime.

And he said there would be a “time and place” to debate partygate, but said that should be put “on pause” whilst there is a war in Europe.

April 1, 2022: First £50 fines handed out for lockdown breaches

Around 20 fixed penalty notices were delivered to those in attendance at the gatherings held across Whitehall during the pandemic.

At the time, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister stated that he had not yet received a fine, but indicated they would provide an update were that to change.

April 12, 2022: Johnson and Sunak handed fines by police investigating rule breaking

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police stated that they had issued at least 30 more fixed penalty notices, bring the total number above 50.

It was later confirmed by a No 10 spokesperson that fines had been issued to Johnson and Sunak for their part in the illegal gatherings held during the course of the pandemic.

Opposition parties were quick to call for Johnson and Sunak to resign, but the Prime Minister looks set to remain in post for the time being at least.

May 19, 2022: Metropolitan Police concludes investigation into breaches of lockdown rules

Operation Hillman, the investigation into lockdown rule-breaking across Downing Street and Whitehall, was completed by police.

It cost a total of £460,000 and ended with 126 fines being issued.

Detectives assessed 510 photographs and CCTV images and 204 questionnaires as part of their enquiry.

And the team of 12 detectives worked through 345 documents which included emails, door logs, diary entries and witness statements.

Acting deputy commissioner of the Met Helen Ball said the investigation was “thorough and impartial”.