Boris Johnson has received a questionnaire from police investigating allegations of lockdown-breaching parties in No 10, Downing Street has said.
No10 confirmed late on Friday that Mr Johnson had received the legal form from the Metropolitan Police. A Downing Street spokesperson said the prime minister “will respond as required.”
The move means Mr Johnson will have to provide a credible reason as to why he was at events held during coronavirus restrictions or face a fine.
Mr Johnson is enduring the most challenging time of his premiership over claims he attended parties while the country was under strict Covid curbs.
Fifteen Tory MPs have publicly called for Mr Johnson to resign and on Thursday former prime minister Sir John Major used a speech to accuse him and No 10 officials of breaking lockdown laws and concocting “brazen excuses” about the Partygate affair.
Tobias Ellwood, one of the Conservative MPs to have written a letter of no confidence to 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady, told BBC Newsnight: “We need to get this resolved. The nation is looking at this.
“There’s a massive level of trust to be regained. We need to move forward, this is a mess.”
The Met is currently investigating 12 events as part of Operation Hillman and are sending the questionnaires to more than 50 individuals across Downing Street and wider government.
The force say the questionnaires ask for an “account and explanation of the recipient’s participation in an event” and have “formal legal status and must be answered truthfully”.
A spokesman previously told The Independent that answers provided “will be treated as written statements made under caution”.
Police cautions are used when an individual is suspected of a criminal offence. Recipients of the questionnaire will be informed they have seven days to respond.
Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has said it would be “very tough” for Mr Johnson to cling on to power if he is fined.
“It will be difficult, he knows that,” the senior MP said in an interview with the i newspaper.
Sir Iain added: “If you’ve set the laws, and you break them and the police decide you have broken them… and then there’s the unredacted (Sue Gray) report – the two things will come together.”
Rishi Sunak said earlier on Friday he is not expecting to be asked to fill out a police questionnaire in relation to the Partygate investigation.
The chancellor told Sky News he did not think he had broken Covid rules when he went a birthday event hosted by Carrie Johnson for her husband on 19 June 2020.
Rishi Sunak said he does not know if he will receive Met Police questionnaire
Pressed on if he still has confidence in the prime minister, Mr Sunak added he “has my total support”.
Mr Johnson has reportedly hired a legal expert to give him advice after he is alleged to have have been at up to six gatherings – including the “bring your own booze” party in the No 10 garden in May 2020 during the first lockdown.
The lawyer, paid for by the prime minister personally, will focus on the fact that No10 is Mr Johnson’s home and his workplace, reports The Times.
Mr Johnson allegedly attended an additional event organised by his wife in No10 in November that year, during which Abba songs were reportedly heard on the night of former chief adviser Dominic Cumming’s departure.
On Friday evening, the PM’s former aide Mr Cummings tweeted: “Great work tory mps leaving this crippled joke of a pm spending next 7 days bunkered down with lawyers trying to remember all his different lies while another major global crisis unfolds.”
Outgoing Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick this week suggested some of those being contacted by officers will end up with fines.
“Clearly, some, but probably not all, of those people may very well end up with a ticket,” she told BBC Radio London.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “We can confirm the prime minister has received a questionnaire from the Metropolitan Police. He will respond as required.”
Met Police declined to comment further when approached on Friday evening.
Additional reporting by PA