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The government has announced that an investigation into claims a Christmas party was held at Downing Street during lockdown will also cover two further alleged gatherings in the same period.
Paymaster General Michael Ellis told the Commons that the inquiry, led by the Cabinet Office, would aim to establish the facts around gatherings at Number 10 on 27 November 2020 and 18 December 2020.
Another reported festive gathering at the Department of Education on 10 December 2020 will also be covered by the investigation.
“The primary purpose of the Cabinet Secretary’s investigation will be to establish swiftly a general understanding of the nature of the gatherings including attendance, the setting, and the purpose and with reference to adherence to the guidance in place at the time,” Ellis said.
The Cabinet Office would also seek to “establish whether individual disciplinary action is warranted”, Ellis continued, and insisted that anything relating to potential criminal offences would be “a matter for the police”.
“All ministers, special advisers and civil servants will be expected to cooperate with this investigation,” he added.
The investigation has been launched following reports that a Christmas party was held at Downing Street in December last year while severe lockdown restrictions prohibiting gatherings were in place.
Footage was released earlier this week which showed senior Number 10 staff joking and laughing about holding a party in what appeared to be a news conference rehearsal for Johnson’s then press secretary Allegra Stratton.
Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that he “apologises unreservedly” for offence caused by the footage, but insisted that he had been “repeatedly assured” no party took place.
He also announced that he had instructed Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to investigate the allegations.
There have also been separate allegations from former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings that other parties took place in the same period.
Officials at the Department for Education have also admitted that a Christmas “gathering” was held in their offices in December last year, while London was subject to Tier 2 restrictions.
“On December 10 2020 a gathering of colleagues who were already present at the office – and who had worked together throughout the pandemic, as they couldn’t work from home – took place in the DfE office building in London at a time when the city was subject to Tier 2 restrictions,” a spokesperson for the department said.
“The gathering was used to thank those staff for their efforts during the pandemic. Drinks and snacks were brought by those attending and no outside guests or supporting staff were invited or present.
“While this was work-related, looking back we accept it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time.”
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