The current Whitehall probe will focus on the bash at which officials had drinks, nibbles and party games, including a Secret Santa, late into the night in December last year
Boris Johnson faces mounting fury from his own MPs and the public as he continues to deny all knowledge of lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street last year.
As the Prime Minister announced Plan B restrictions to slow the spread of Omicron, he confirmed a Whitehall probe would be held into a party held on December 18, and any evidence of rule-breaking would be available to any police investigation.
The Whitehall probe will focus on the bash at which officials had drinks, nibbles and party games, including a Secret Santa, late into the night.
But Mr Johnson faced calls to extend the investigation to include a leaving do on November 27, 2020. It is claimed Mr Johnson gave a speech and his former senior aide Lord Lister was there
And he was also asked about claims, which he denied, from Dominic Cummings that there was a smaller gathering in the Downing Street flat Mr Johnson shares with wife Carrie.
Sources told the Mirror that senior No 10 aides “were all drinking their socks off” at the alleged gathering on November 13 last year.
Downing Street staff reported hearing “loud music pumping out of the flat” late into the night after Mr Cummings, the PM’s former top aide, had walked out of No 10. A spokeswoman for Carrie Johnson dismissed the claims as “total nonsense”.
The Department for Education’s top official announced that Gavin Williamson’s staff party in the run-up to last Christmas will also be investigated by the Cabinet Secretary.
No10 also faces questions over a report by the BBC into a Christmas quiz that took place in person at the Cabinet Office with No10 staff joining in.
Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)
Mr Johnson said he had asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to look at allegations relating to December 18, rather than at any other dates.
Any aides found guilty of breaking the rules would face disciplinary action.
He said: “As far as I’m concerned, all the evidence I can see is that people in this building have stayed within the rules. If that turns out not to be the case, and people wish to bring allegations to my attention or to the police or whoever, then of course there will be proper sanctions.”
Pressed by the Mirror at a No 10 press conference over whether Mr Case would widen the probe, the PM said: “He may wish to look at other things but that is a matter, frankly, for him.”
It came on a dramatic day at Westminster with the Government struggling to get a grip on the fallout from the Mirror’s revelations.
One of the PM’s most senior aides Allegra Stratton tearfully quit after leaked footage showed her laughing and joking about Covid rules while the rest of the country faced restrictions. Mr Johnson claimed he was “furious” about the leaked footage of Ms Stratton.
He told MPs: “I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused.”
But he prompted disbelief when he shifted the blame on to his officials, insisting he had been repeatedly assured “there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken”.
Labour leader Keir Starmer accused the PM of being “caught red-handed” and said that his apology “raises more questions than answers”.
An Opinium poll for Sky News found that just 12% believed the PM was telling the truth over the December 18 party, while 53% thought he should resign.
Mr Johnson faces claims that he has seriously damaged the Government’s public health messaging as Covid cases again begin to soar.
NHS Confederation chief Matthew Taylor said: “If it feels as though powerful people are not playing by the rules, then there is a blow to morale, it does make it harder to get people to follow the advice.”
UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Imag)
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “We all know people get very angry, including colleagues and friends, when they feel that it’s unfair.’’
Furious Tories attacked Mr Johnson for his “indefensible” behaviour.
Douglas Ross, the Conservative Party leader in Scotland, even saying he should quit if he had misled Parliament. One Tory MP William Wragg accused Mr Johnson of bringing in new restrictions days earlier than expected to try to move on from the parties row.
He said: “Very few will be convinced by this diversionary tactic.”
Labour’s David Lammy urged the PM to “come clean” with the public over the gatherings, which No10 has repeatedly claimed were within the rules.
In the week since the Mirror revealed the bash on December 18 last year, when London was in Tier 3 lockdown rules, ministers have insisted no rules were broken.
No 10 was thought to be relying on a law which could mean that Covid restrictions do not apply in Government buildings.
The Lib Dems have written to the Attorney General over the matter, which would actually mean different rules for ministers and officials than the rest of the country.
The Metropolitan Police has said it will not investigate the Christmas bash due to an “absence of evidence”. Scotland Yard also said it had a policy not to investigate retrospective breaches of coronavirus regulations.
Tory MP Philip Davies asked Health Secretary Sajid Javid : “Can you give me any reason at all why I shouldn’t tell my constituents to treat these rules in the same way that No 10 Downing Street treated last year’s rules?”
Former chief whip Mark Harper said: “Why should people at home listening to the Prime Minster and the Health Secretary do things that people working in Number 10 Downing Street are not prepared to do?”
Former minister Tracey Crouch said: “My constituents have every right to be angry. We all deserve a fulsome explanation and apology and swiftly.”
Tory peer Ruth Davidson tweeted: “None of this is remotely defensible.”