Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to be fined for breaching Covid rules

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are among those to be issued with fixed-penalty notices as a result of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) investigation into illegal social gatherings held in Downing Street and Whitehall during the pandemic.

The MPS revealed earlier this afternoon that it has made another 30 referrals for fixed-penalty notices, in addition to 20 handed out in an initial “tranche” of fines two weeks ago, as part of its investigation into gatherings held in breach of Covid public health restrictions.

Reacting to the news, Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign. The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern. Britain deserves better.”

The Prime Minister told parliament following the emergence of the initial partygate allegations that “the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times”. Starmer said earlier today that the issuing of fines in the investigation meant this defence had been “blown out the water“.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have today received notification that the Metropolitan Police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices. We have no further details, but we will update you again when we do.”

The fines to be issued to Johnson and Sunak relate to parties held in Downing Street during lockdown and are thought to include a gathering in the cabinet room for the Prime Minister’s birthday in June 2020, which was also attended by Sunak.

Welsh Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford tweeted: “You can’t be a law maker and a law breaker. The Prime Minister has denied time and again that he did anything wrong. He has clearly broken the laws he made and asked people to follow. People are angry and upset. I don’t see how someone in this position can carry on.”

The fixed-penalty notice issued to Johnson makes him the first sitting Prime Minister to receive a criminal sanction for breaking the law. His wife Carrie Johnson, who also lives at the Downing Street residence, will receive a fine as well.

The police are investigating 12 gatherings, including events held in the Downing Street garden, inside No 10 and in Johnson’s official Downing Street residence. The police have not specified to which of the gatherings the 50 fines relate.

It emerged after the first tranche, however, that a party held for former head of the Covid taskforce Kate Joseph and the leaving party for private secretary Hannah Young were two of the events that have resulted in fixed-penalty notices.

In a statement, the MPS said today: “We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed, this includes continuing to assess significant amounts of investigative material from which further referrals may be made to Acro.”

Three weeks ago, the police began interviews with some of those involved in the events. They have also taken evidence from more than 100 ministers, advisers and officials, including the Prime Minister and Sunak, through questionnaires.

Asked whether he or any officials attended Christmas parties in breach of public health regulations during the lockdown in late 2020, the Chancellor told parliament last December: “No, I did not attend any parties.”

Asked whether Johnson should resign if he is found to have misled the Commons, Sunak said “the ministerial code is clear on these matters”. The code outlines that ministers who are found to have knowingly misled parliament “will be expected to offer their resignation”.

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