Lockdown parties report to be published in full, says Johnson

Expectation at Westminster that document will not now be circulated before next Monday

British prime minister Boris Johnson has dismissed claims that he personally intervened to have animals from the Nowzad charity airlifted from Kabul during the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan last year as "total rhubarb". Video: Reuters

 

British prime minister Boris Johnson has promised that senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report on parties in Downing Street that may have broken lockdown rules will be published in full. Speaking during a visit to Wales, Mr Johnson said he did not know when the report would be made public.

“You’ve got to let the independent inquiries go on,” he said.

Ms Gray is understood to have finished writing her report and she has referred some matters to the Metropolitan Police, who said this week that they were investigating possible breaches of coronavirus rules. Some reports have put the delay in publishing her report to consultations between her office and the police over possible redactions, as well as talks with human resources officials and unions about the identification and potential disciplining of civil servants who may have broken the rules.

Mr Johnson has promised to publish the report as soon as possible after he receives it and to make a statement in the House of Commons. Many MPs have already returned to their constituencies for the weekend and the expectation at Westminster on Thursday was that the report may not now be published before next Monday.

Respect the code

Labour leader Keir Starmer has called on Mr Johnson to resign, accusing him of breaching the ministerial code by knowingly misleading the House of Commons by asserting that there were no parties at Downing Street during lockdown. Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle said on Thursday that everyone should respect the code, adding that he expected MPs to have a chance to read Ms Gray’s report before Mr Johnson’s statement.

“If the ministerial code has been broken, in fairness everybody must respect the code, whether it’s the prime minister or a minister, it is there for those to abide by. I think in fairness to the prime minister he’s said he abides by the ministerial code,” he told PA.

“Of course I expect the report to be printed in full, I expect MPs to be able to read that before the statement. I want them to be informed, to ask the right questions, and to have a debate and questioning of the prime minister, who quite rightly has said, ‘I am coming to the House of Commons, I am coming there first’. Well, let’s make sure that whether it’s the opposition or MPs from the government, that they have sight of that statement before it’s made.”

Mr Johnson described as “complete rhubarb” claims that he personally authorised the evacuation of pet animals from Kabul last August while desperate Afghans were left behind. But animal rights campaigner Dominic Dyer, who was involved in rescuing the animals, said he did not understand why the prime minister did not embrace his role in it.

“The prime minister played a role because he’s the head of the government,” he told the BBC..

“There were points in this process where the ministry of defence and the secretary of defence clearly had concerns about this operation and did not approve of what we were seeking to do . . . And it took the prime minister to unlock that process. You don’t have ministers working across Whitehall in the way that they were without approval at the highest level.”