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Downing Street gatherings: What were the Covid rules at the time? Downing Street gatherings: What were the Covid rules at the time?
(31 minutes later)
A newly released photo from May 2020 has prompted fresh questions about whether government staff broke Covid rules during periods of lockdown.A newly released photo from May 2020 has prompted fresh questions about whether government staff broke Covid rules during periods of lockdown.
The image, which shows the prime minister and his staff with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard in the Downing Street garden, was published by The Guardian.The image, which shows the prime minister and his staff with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard in the Downing Street garden, was published by The Guardian.
What were the Covid rules at the time?What were the Covid rules at the time?
In May 2020, England was in lockdown and by law, people were only allowed to be away from their home if they had a "reasonable excuse".In May 2020, England was in lockdown and by law, people were only allowed to be away from their home if they had a "reasonable excuse".
One of the listed excuses was for work, "where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work... from the place where they are living".One of the listed excuses was for work, "where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work... from the place where they are living".
A No 10 spokesman commented on the May photo, saying: "Work meetings often take place in the Downing Street garden in the summer months. When asked about the May photo, Boris Johnson said, "those people were at work talking about work".
EXCLUSIVE: Boris Johnson and staff pictured with wine in Downing Street garden in May 2020 https://t.co/HDyvi70Nqd
But Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told BBC Breakfast that the people pictured were having a drink, "after the work meetings of the day".But Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told BBC Breakfast that the people pictured were having a drink, "after the work meetings of the day".
If they weren't working, then the work excuse wouldn't count, except for the prime minister and his partner, who could argue that the garden was part of their home.If they weren't working, then the work excuse wouldn't count, except for the prime minister and his partner, who could argue that the garden was part of their home.
The law at the time did not mention socialising with colleagues.The law at the time did not mention socialising with colleagues.
There was also government advice that you should stay at least two metres away from anyone who wasn't part of your household, but that was not a legal requirement.There was also government advice that you should stay at least two metres away from anyone who wasn't part of your household, but that was not a legal requirement.
What about other gatherings?What about other gatherings?
The government is already facing scrutiny over a series of alleged gatherings in and around Downing Street last year.The government is already facing scrutiny over a series of alleged gatherings in and around Downing Street last year.
18 December 2020 - Downing Street originally denied a report by the The Daily Mirror that a party took place in Downing Street on this date, and a number of ministers appeared on television and radio to repeat the denials.18 December 2020 - Downing Street originally denied a report by the The Daily Mirror that a party took place in Downing Street on this date, and a number of ministers appeared on television and radio to repeat the denials.
However, a video obtained by ITV News showed the prime minister's then-press secretary Allegra Stratton, joking about reports of a party, saying: "This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced."However, a video obtained by ITV News showed the prime minister's then-press secretary Allegra Stratton, joking about reports of a party, saying: "This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced."
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Watch: Video obtained by ITV News shows Downing Street staff joking about a No 10 Christmas party during a mock press conferenceWatch: Video obtained by ITV News shows Downing Street staff joking about a No 10 Christmas party during a mock press conference
Ms Stratton later resigned.Ms Stratton later resigned.
15 May: Downing Street has denied newspaper reports that Boris Johnson attended a No 10 party during the first lockdown, where about 20 staff drank alcohol and ate pizzas. The Guardian says the photo of the gathering in the Downing Street garden was taken on this date.15 May: Downing Street has denied newspaper reports that Boris Johnson attended a No 10 party during the first lockdown, where about 20 staff drank alcohol and ate pizzas. The Guardian says the photo of the gathering in the Downing Street garden was taken on this date.
13 November: Sources told the BBC that Downing Street staff members attended a gathering with Carrie Johnson in the flat where she and the prime minister live. A spokesman for Ms Johnson denies the party took place.13 November: Sources told the BBC that Downing Street staff members attended a gathering with Carrie Johnson in the flat where she and the prime minister live. A spokesman for Ms Johnson denies the party took place.
27 November: A leaving event was held for No 10 aide, Cleo Watson, where people were drinking, and Mr Johnson made a speech, according to sources.27 November: A leaving event was held for No 10 aide, Cleo Watson, where people were drinking, and Mr Johnson made a speech, according to sources.
10 December: The Department for Education has confirmed it had an office gathering to thank staff for their work during the pandemic. It says drinks and snacks were brought by those who attended and no outside guests or support staff were invited.10 December: The Department for Education has confirmed it had an office gathering to thank staff for their work during the pandemic. It says drinks and snacks were brought by those who attended and no outside guests or support staff were invited.
14 December: The Conservative Party has admitted that an "unauthorised gathering" took place at its HQ in Westminster. It was held by the team of the party's London-mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey, who has since stepped down as chair of the London Assembly police and crime committee. The Metropolitan Police is to speak to two people who attended the party.14 December: The Conservative Party has admitted that an "unauthorised gathering" took place at its HQ in Westminster. It was held by the team of the party's London-mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey, who has since stepped down as chair of the London Assembly police and crime committee. The Metropolitan Police is to speak to two people who attended the party.
15 December: Multiple sources have told the BBC there was a Christmas quiz for No 10 staff last year. A photo - published by the Sunday Mirror - shows Boris Johnson taking part and sitting between two colleagues in No 10. Mr Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.15 December: Multiple sources have told the BBC there was a Christmas quiz for No 10 staff last year. A photo - published by the Sunday Mirror - shows Boris Johnson taking part and sitting between two colleagues in No 10. Mr Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.
The Sunday Mirror has published a picture of Mr Johnson at the quiz, which it said was on 15 December.The Sunday Mirror has published a picture of Mr Johnson at the quiz, which it said was on 15 December.
16 December: The Department for Transport has apologised after confirming reports of a party in its offices, calling it "inappropriate" and an "error of judgment" by staff.16 December: The Department for Transport has apologised after confirming reports of a party in its offices, calling it "inappropriate" and an "error of judgment" by staff.
Which parties are being investigated?Which parties are being investigated?
The prime minister asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case - the most senior civil servant in the UK - to investigate some of the reports.The prime minister asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case - the most senior civil servant in the UK - to investigate some of the reports.
However, Mr Case stood aside after it emerged that a quiz was held by his own private office on 17 December 2020.However, Mr Case stood aside after it emerged that a quiz was held by his own private office on 17 December 2020.
Senior civil servant Sue Gray is now leading the inquiry, which will examine :Senior civil servant Sue Gray is now leading the inquiry, which will examine :
The alleged gathering on 27 NovemberThe alleged gathering on 27 November
The Department for Education gathering on 10 DecemberThe Department for Education gathering on 10 December
The Downing Street Christmas quiz on 15 DecemberThe Downing Street Christmas quiz on 15 December
The alleged Downing Street party on 18 DecemberThe alleged Downing Street party on 18 December
Ms Gray will "ascertain the facts and present her findings to the prime minister", according to a spokesperson for No 10.Ms Gray will "ascertain the facts and present her findings to the prime minister", according to a spokesperson for No 10.
What rules may have been broken?What rules may have been broken?
At the time of the alleged gathering on 27 November, there was still a national lockdown in force and indoor gatherings were not allowed.At the time of the alleged gathering on 27 November, there was still a national lockdown in force and indoor gatherings were not allowed.
The rules in operation for London on 15 December, when the Downing Street Christmas quiz took place, said "you must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting."The rules in operation for London on 15 December, when the Downing Street Christmas quiz took place, said "you must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting."
Any party at Downing Street on 18 December would have breached the government's guidance for the Christmas period, which said work Christmas lunches or parties were not allowed "where that is a primarily social activity".Any party at Downing Street on 18 December would have breached the government's guidance for the Christmas period, which said work Christmas lunches or parties were not allowed "where that is a primarily social activity".
By this time, London had been moved to tier 3 rules. Gatherings of two or more people indoors were banned (unless "reasonably necessary" for work) and there was a specific prohibition on organising an indoor gathering of more than 30 people.By this time, London had been moved to tier 3 rules. Gatherings of two or more people indoors were banned (unless "reasonably necessary" for work) and there was a specific prohibition on organising an indoor gathering of more than 30 people.
What have the police said?What have the police said?
The Metropolitan Police is not currently investigating the allegations except for the party at Conservative Party HQ.The Metropolitan Police is not currently investigating the allegations except for the party at Conservative Party HQ.
It said that it did not normally investigate breaches of Coronavirus Regulations which were reported "long after they are said to have taken place", although it said that officers may review matters if "significant evidence" became available.It said that it did not normally investigate breaches of Coronavirus Regulations which were reported "long after they are said to have taken place", although it said that officers may review matters if "significant evidence" became available.
What happened to people who broke the rules?What happened to people who broke the rules?
Thousands of of people were issued with fines for breaking rules on gatherings last year, according to figures from the National Police Chiefs' Council.Thousands of of people were issued with fines for breaking rules on gatherings last year, according to figures from the National Police Chiefs' Council.
At the time, large parties could be shut down by the police - with penalties of up to £10,000. Maximum fines were handed out to, among others, party organisers in Northampton and Ormskirk.At the time, large parties could be shut down by the police - with penalties of up to £10,000. Maximum fines were handed out to, among others, party organisers in Northampton and Ormskirk.
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