LONDON – Any evidence that parties were held in Whitehall in violation of COVID-19 restrictions will be referred to the police, a British minister said on Tuesday, as Boris Johnson’s government faced a storm of criticism over a rally in Downing Street.
A leaked email from official Martin Reynolds, who heads the Prime Minister’s Office, shows government staff were invited to a ‘social distancing’ drink in May 2020 in the garden at No.10 Downing Street – at a moment when people across the UK have been banned from meeting more than one person apart from those they live with.
Defending the government in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Payor General Michael Ellis told MPs he again apologized “wholeheartedly for the upheaval these allegations have caused.”
He said an ongoing investigation by Government Representative Sue Gray into other parties suspected of breaking the rules would “establish the facts” on the latest allegations and, “if wrongdoing is established, necessary disciplinary action will be taken. taken”.
“As with all internal investigations, if evidence emerges of what is potentially a criminal offense, the case will be referred to the Metropolitan Police and the work of the Cabinet Office may be suspended,” he said. Met police have confirmed they are in contact with the Cabinet Office regarding the May 20 rally.
During a stormy and often moving Commons session, Democratic Unionist Party MP Jim Shannon burst into tears as he told MPs his mother-in-law died on her own from COVID – and asked for full disclosure to police.
Labor MP Afzal Khan told MPs his mother died alone in hospital from COVID-19 as he sat in the car outside trying to be as close to her as possible. He asked why Johnson himself was not in the House of Commons to face questions.
Deputy Labor chief Angela Rayner, meanwhile, accused ministers of hiding behind the Gray investigation, and said it “will not be good” to “put the blame for this on a few junior officials.”
“The Prime Minister sets the tone. If the Prime Minister was there, he surely knew it, ”she said.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson told reporters on Tuesday that Johnson trusted Reynolds, who sent the email inviting staff for drinks, and that the senior official would continue in his role.
But the spokesperson repeatedly declined to comment on the substance of the allegations, saying it was “right for the facts to be independently established” through the Gray investigation and that No. 10 did not want ” prejudge “of this work.