London police move to limit Downing Street parties report

Published January 29, 2022
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during a visit to RAF Valley, the Royal Air Force station on the island of Anglesey in north Wales on January 27. — AFP
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during a visit to RAF Valley, the Royal Air Force station on the island of Anglesey in north Wales on January 27. — AFP

LONDON: An inquiry into Covid-19 lockdown-breaking gatherings in Downing Street that might determine the future of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be further delayed after the police asked for the report to make only “minimal reference” to those events.

Johnson, facing the gravest threat to his premiership over the alleged lockdown-busting parties at his residence and office at Number 10, has so far weathered growing calls to resign over the events, asking for lawmakers to wait for the report.

Led by senior civil servant Sue Gray, it is looking into several allegations that staff, and Johnson, attended parties in Downing Street in breach of the rules they had themselves imposed on the population to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

It had been expected to be released this week but that time scale was derailed when on Tuesday, London’s Metropolitan Police said they had opened an investigation into some of the events to assess whether criminal offences had been committed.

The force has itself faced criticism for initially declining to investigate the allegations.

Officials are working on ways to publish Gray’s report without compromising the criminal investigation, and some lawmakers fear that it will be watered down.

It could, some lawmakers say, also be delayed.

“For the events the Met is investigating, we asked for minimal reference to be made in the Cabinet Office report,” the police said in a statement, referring to the department which supports the prime minister and helps implement his policies.

“The Met did not ask for any limitations on other events in the report, or for the report to be delayed, but we have had ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office, including on the content of the report, to avoid any prejudice to our investigation,” it said.

When questioned about the statement, a spokesman for Johnson repeatedly said the investigation’s terms of reference stated that Gray and her team would keep in contact with the police.

“Again it’s an independent investigation, we haven’t been privy to the details of that investigation or any of its content,” he told reporters.Gray’s report, which she will deliver to Johnson before it is published and presented to parliament, is seen as crucial to his fate, and he and his ministers have said people should not reach any conclusions before its release.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2022

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