Parties could be investigated – if Cabinet Office provides evidence, Met tells MP

Elliot Chappell

The Metropolitan Police Service has revealed that it could investigate allegations that rule-breaking Downing Street Christmas parties were held last year, but only if the Cabinet Office investigation passes over evidence following its own inquiry.

In a letter to Neil Coyle published today, the police force told the Labour MP that it would not be opening an investigation now as the leaked footage “does not provide evidence of a breach of the health protection regulations”.

“Based on the absence of evidence and in line with our policy not normally to investigate breaches of these regulations when they are reported long after they are said to have taken place, the Met will not commence and investigation at this time,” the letter stated.

But it added: “The Met has had discussions with the Cabinet Office in relation to the investigation that is being undertaken. If any evidence is found as a result of that investigation, it will be passed to the Met for further consideration.”

Boris Johnson has repeatedly been accused of dishonesty after denying knowledge of parties that allegedly took place in Downing Street in the run-up to Christmas last year, in contravention of the Covid rules in place at the time.

According to reports in the press, more than one gathering took place last year. This included one alleged to have taken place on December 18th, when London was under Tier 3 restrictions and indoor household mixing was prohibited.

Johnson claimed during Prime Minister’s Questions shortly afterwards that Covid rules were not broken – but also did not deny a party took place. “Both of those things can’t be true,” Keir Starmer responded.

Footage was leaked one week after the Prime Minister’s comments, showing his then spokesperson Allegra Stratton laughing about the alleged party. Stratton subsequently resigned from her role as COP26 spokesperson.

Johnson announced earlier this month that the Cabinet Office, led by Simon Case, would be investigating. But Case, the Cabinet Secretary, recused himself from the inquiry last week after it emerged that there had been a quiz – registered in work calendars as “Christmas Party!” – in the Cabinet Office on December 17th.

Case, the most senior civil servant in the UK, has now been accused of misleading government officials over what he knew about the parties in Downing Street after having assured colleagues that he had no knowledge of any social gatherings.

Following complaints after the Metropolitan Police Service refused to investigate the reports, the body has since separately referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) saying that the complaints “effectively allege misconduct in public office by MPS police officers”.

An IOPC spokesperson said: “We can confirm that, on Friday December 17, we received a referral from the Metropolitan Police Service of a complaint about an alleged party at Downing Street in December 2020. We are assessing it to determine what, if any, further action may be required from us.

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