‘Facts not in dispute’ over whether fines mean laws were broken – No 10

Downing Street said the Prime Minister’s ‘position’ prevented him from commenting until the partygate investigation is over.

31 March 2022

The Prime Minister’s “position” in the so-called partygate investigation prevents him from commenting on whether coronavirus laws were broken in Whitehall, Downing Street has said.

Two Cabinet ministers have now said the fact the Metropolitan Police have issued fixed penalty notices (FPNs) in the probe indicated laws had been broken.

But Boris Johnson has so far dodged the question, refusing to be drawn into the discussion until the investigation has finished.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said on Thursday that “the facts are not in dispute” after International Trade Secretary Anne Marie Trevelyan agreed with Justice Secretary Dominic Raab that rules had been breached.

But “given the Prime Minister’s position, it is right that we do not comment in the middle of an investigation, we comment at the end of it”, he said.

Asked what he meant by the PM’s position, he added: “Clearly this is something that’s been centred on both No 10 and the Cabinet Office in the main – and we’ve confirmed that the Prime Minister has received a questionnaire – but I think it was simply the Prime Minister’s view that while there is an ongoing live investigation, it wouldn’t be right for him to give his response at that point.”

The Metropolitan Police refused to say on Thursday whether the fixed penalty notices, which were referred to the ACRO Criminal Records Office to be doled out, had formally been issued.

However, it is not believed the Prime Minister is among those to receive a fine.

Asked on Wednesday by MPs on the Commons Liaison Committee whether he was set to receive an FPN, the PM said: “I’m sure you would know if I were.”

Liaison Committee
Prime Minister Boris Johnson answering questions in front of the Liaison Committee in the House of Commons, London (House of Commons/PA)

Previously, Mr Raab – who is a qualified lawyer – said it was “clear there were breaches of the law”.

Asked on Sky News whether 20 fines being issued indicated there were 20 instances of people breaking the law, Ms Trevelyan said: “Well, that’s right. They’ve broken the regulations that were set in the Covid Act and police deem that that was what they did, and therefore they’ve been fined accordingly.”

The PM’s spokesman said: “The facts are not in dispute. We have been clear that mistakes were made, the Prime Minister believes it is right to respond once the full facts are known, once the investigation has concluded.”

Asked why Cabinet ministers were prepared to say the law was broken but the Prime Minister was not, the spokesman said: “He said he would not be giving a running commentary on the investigation. He will respond once the full facts are known and once the investigation has concluded.

“As Anne-Marie Trevelyan has said, the facts are not in dispute and the Prime Minister has said that mistakes have been made.

“But beyond that I’m not going to be commenting and the Prime Minister will not be until the investigation is concluded.”

Sajid Javid visiting Barking Community Hospital
Health secretary Sajid Javid refused to be drawn into the discussion during a visit to Barking Community Hospital in Essex (Stefan Russeau/PA)

Health Secretary Sajid Javid also refused to be drawn into the discussion.

Speaking to reporters at Barking Community Hospital in Essex, he said: “The police investigation… into events in Downing Street, it’s a live investigation. It’s still going on.

“I do know, of course, like everyone else that at least 20 fines have been issued so far but it is a live investigation. I think it’s never good practice for ministers to comment on it.”

Asked why there was so much confusion in Government about the matter, Mr Javid said: “I don’t think there’s any confusion.

“I mean, if you’re asking me in general about fixed penalty notices, when those are issued, of course, it means the police issuing that has come to a conclusion, and that’s purely a police matter – not a ministerial matter.”

Downing Street has committed to revealing if either Mr Johnson or Cabinet Secretary Simon Case received a fine as part of the investigation.

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the public should be told if the Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, is issued with an FPN.

Local council elections
Labour Leader Sir Kier Starmer said the public should be told if the Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, is issued with an FPN (Danny Lawson/PA)

Speaking to broadcasters in Bury, Sir Keir said: “If Carrie Johnson gets a fixed penalty notice then, of course, it should be made public.

“My focus is on the Prime Minister because he is the one who sets the culture, he is the one who oversaw this criminality at his home and his office, he is the one that came to Parliament and said all rules were complied with, which is clearly not the case.

“So I do think Carrie Johnson should be named if she gets a penalty notice, but my focus is laser-like on the Prime Minister.”

The FPNs being issued by the Met relate to investigations into a series of around a dozen events in Downing Street and Whitehall while England was subject to coronavirus lockdown restrictions – including one in the Prime Minister’s flat.

Although Mr Johnson is not expected to be among the first group to be hit with fines, the Met have indicated they expect to issue more fixed penalty notices as their investigations continue.

The ACRO Criminal Records Office – which is responsible for issuing the fines – when asked whether the first 20 had yet been issued, directed inquires to the Metropolitan Police. The Met refused to confirm whether the fines had been issued to any of those set to receive them.

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