Covid: No 10 faces continuing pressure to explain Christmas gathering during restrictions

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Samantha Haynes

By Samantha Haynes

Published: 06/12/2021

- 12:30

Policing minister claims he knows 'nothing about' a No 10 party in December where reportedly games were played, despite London being in Tier 3 at the time

The policing minister conceded he knows “nothing about” a Christmas party held in No 10 during coronavirus restrictions but said he believes no rules were broken.

Kit Malthouse said on Monday he would take Downing Street’s insistence that all regulations were complied with during the reported bash on December 18 at “face value”.

He also suggested there may have been circumstances such as distancing between attendees that would have permitted the gathering – despite London being in Tier 3 banning social mixing indoors at the time.

No 10 is under growing pressure to explain what happened in Downing Street last year, as the Metropolitan Police said it was considering complaints submitted by two Labour MPs.

The Daily Mirror reported two events took place in No 10 last year in the run-up to the festive season, including Boris Johnson giving a speech at a leaving do during November’s lockdown.

The other was said to be a staff party in December where party games were played, food and drinks were served, and revelries went on past midnight.

At the time, the Tier 3 rules in place in London explicitly banned work Christmas lunches and parties where it is “a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted”.

Mr Malthouse told Sky News: “I know nothing about it – I’ve been assured by No 10 that no rules were broken if there was a gathering of any kind.

“No 10 are reassuring everybody that all rules were complied with during that period and I take that reassurance at face value, but no doubt if the police are alerted they will have a look and they will form a view and we’ll learn more about it in the days to come.

“The police should be investigating anything that is a historic crime to them.”

The Home Office minister conceded he is “not an investigator” when questioned on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme how the Christmas party could have been within the rules.

“I asked the question was all the regulations complied with, I was reassured they were, I have to take that at face value, that’s absolutely what I’m sure is the case, it’s for others if they want to decide to take it further,” he added.

“They reassured me that all the regulations were followed and, of course, I believe them.”

He declined to say whether it would have been within the rules for BBC staff to have held a party with drinks, nibbles and party games.

But he added: “You’re asking me a hypothetical question, I don’t know what the circumstances might have been, how far people would’ve been apart, what size of space it was, there are all sorts of variations.”

His remark appeared to contradict another from Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, who a day earlier conceded a “formal party” would have been “clearly contrary to the guidance”.

Families who lost loved ones during the pandemic have said they were “sickened” by the reports, with the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group urging the Prime Minister to apologise.

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