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Downing Street parties: What Covid rules were broken? Downing Street parties: What Covid rules were broken?
(5 days later)
The Metropolitan Police investigation into Westminster parties during Covid restrictions has led to 20 fines being issued. The Metropolitan Police investigation into Westminster parties during Covid restrictions has led to 20 fines being issued so far.
Its investigation is separate to one by Sue Gray, the senior civil servant who has already published her initial findings.Its investigation is separate to one by Sue Gray, the senior civil servant who has already published her initial findings.
During the pandemic, a mixture of Covid rules and guidance was in place. Rules were legally enforceable (through fines or even prosecution).During the pandemic, a mixture of Covid rules and guidance was in place. Rules were legally enforceable (through fines or even prosecution).
So, what were the rules at the time?So, what were the rules at the time?
Twenty fines to be issued over No 10 lockdown partiesTwenty fines to be issued over No 10 lockdown parties
16 April 2021 - leaving parties
The night before the socially-distanced funeral for Prince Philip, two leaving parties took place in Downing Street.
Boris Johnson did not attend these gatherings but has apologised that they happened.
We know that some of the fines issued relate to the leaving party for former No 10 director of communications James Slack, who has also since apologised.
Police issue fines over No 10 gathering on eve of Prince Philip's funeral
The rules
The rules had been eased in England on 12 April 2021, but working from home continued to be recommended and socialising indoors with people from other households was not allowed.
There was an exemption for "work purposes" but this did not mention socialising at work.
Meeting others outdoors was limited to groups of six people or two households.
14 January 2021 - gathering14 January 2021 - gathering
A gathering was held in Downing Street for the departure of two No 10 private secretaries, Ms Gray's report states.A gathering was held in Downing Street for the departure of two No 10 private secretaries, Ms Gray's report states.
According to the Guardian, Boris Johnson made a short speech and stayed for around five minutes. Prosecco is alleged to have been drunk by some staff. Downing Street said it could not comment due to the police investigation.According to the Guardian, Boris Johnson made a short speech and stayed for around five minutes. Prosecco is alleged to have been drunk by some staff. Downing Street said it could not comment due to the police investigation.
The rulesThe rules
England had entered its third national lockdown on 6 January 2021. A "stay at home" order was in place. People were allowed to leave home for work (if they could not reasonably work from home), but were not allowed to meet socially with others.England had entered its third national lockdown on 6 January 2021. A "stay at home" order was in place. People were allowed to leave home for work (if they could not reasonably work from home), but were not allowed to meet socially with others.
Police could issue fines starting at £200 in England for those breaking the rules.Police could issue fines starting at £200 in England for those breaking the rules.
15 December 2020 - Christmas quiz15 December 2020 - Christmas quiz
A photo of the prime minister taking part in a Downing Street Christmas quiz was published by the Daily Mirror in December 2021.A photo of the prime minister taking part in a Downing Street Christmas quiz was published by the Daily Mirror in December 2021.
Number 10 said the prime minister "briefly took part virtually" to thank staff for their work during the pandemic and that no rules were broken.Number 10 said the prime minister "briefly took part virtually" to thank staff for their work during the pandemic and that no rules were broken.
The Daily Mirror subsequently published a second photo of the event showing Boris Johnson behind two staff (one wearing tinsel) and an open bottle of wine on the desk.The Daily Mirror subsequently published a second photo of the event showing Boris Johnson behind two staff (one wearing tinsel) and an open bottle of wine on the desk.
The rulesThe rules
At this time, London was under tier 2 restrictions. These rules banned two or more people from different households from meeting indoors, unless "reasonably necessary" for work purposes.At this time, London was under tier 2 restrictions. These rules banned two or more people from different households from meeting indoors, unless "reasonably necessary" for work purposes.
13 November 2020 - two gatherings13 November 2020 - two gatherings
Ms Gray says two gatherings took place in Downing Street: one to mark the departure of a special adviser and one in the Downing Street flat.Ms Gray says two gatherings took place in Downing Street: one to mark the departure of a special adviser and one in the Downing Street flat.
According to the Daily Telegraph, a celebratory event was held in the private flat of Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie following the departure of Dominic Cummings, the PM's former senior advisor.According to the Daily Telegraph, a celebratory event was held in the private flat of Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie following the departure of Dominic Cummings, the PM's former senior advisor.
The Telegraph claims Mr Johnson was seen heading up to the flat on the night of the event. Downing Street said it could not comment on this.The Telegraph claims Mr Johnson was seen heading up to the flat on the night of the event. Downing Street said it could not comment on this.
Previously, when asked in Parliament about whether he could tell MPs whether a party did take place on this date, he told MPs: "No, but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times."Previously, when asked in Parliament about whether he could tell MPs whether a party did take place on this date, he told MPs: "No, but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times."
The rulesThe rules
A second national lockdown was in force at the time and and indoor gatherings with other households were not allowed (unless for work).A second national lockdown was in force at the time and and indoor gatherings with other households were not allowed (unless for work).
19 June 2020 - birthday celebration19 June 2020 - birthday celebration
ITV News said this took place in the Cabinet Room and that it had allegedly been arranged as a surprise for Mr Johnson by his then fiancee, Carrie Symonds.ITV News said this took place in the Cabinet Room and that it had allegedly been arranged as a surprise for Mr Johnson by his then fiancee, Carrie Symonds.
Up to 30 people attended, sang Happy Birthday and were served cake, according to ITV News. As well as Downing Street staff, the interior designer Lulu Lytle - who was not a member of No 10 staff - was present.Up to 30 people attended, sang Happy Birthday and were served cake, according to ITV News. As well as Downing Street staff, the interior designer Lulu Lytle - who was not a member of No 10 staff - was present.
No 10 said staff had "gathered briefly" to "wish the prime minister a happy birthday", adding that the PM had been there "for less than 10 minutes".No 10 said staff had "gathered briefly" to "wish the prime minister a happy birthday", adding that the PM had been there "for less than 10 minutes".
Sue Gray report: What exactly is she looking at?Sue Gray report: What exactly is she looking at?
The rulesThe rules
Gatherings of more than two people inside were banned by law. An exception was allowed if the gathering "was reasonably necessary" for work purposes. Police fines started at £100.Gatherings of more than two people inside were banned by law. An exception was allowed if the gathering "was reasonably necessary" for work purposes. Police fines started at £100.
It seems unlikely the birthday celebration would have been within the rules, argues Adam Wagner.It seems unlikely the birthday celebration would have been within the rules, argues Adam Wagner.
"I don't think even Number 10 is giving an excuse which would have amounted to a defence in law," he told the BBC."I don't think even Number 10 is giving an excuse which would have amounted to a defence in law," he told the BBC.
Josephine sets a great example to us all by postponing her birthday party until we have sent coronavirus packing.Together we can beat this. In the meantime let's all wish her happy birthday (twice) whilst washing our hands. #BeLikeJosephine #StayHomeSaveLives https://t.co/xmDOw60hhV pic.twitter.com/yl7uxe9lhhJosephine sets a great example to us all by postponing her birthday party until we have sent coronavirus packing.Together we can beat this. In the meantime let's all wish her happy birthday (twice) whilst washing our hands. #BeLikeJosephine #StayHomeSaveLives https://t.co/xmDOw60hhV pic.twitter.com/yl7uxe9lhh
Three months prior to the birthday gathering, Mr Johnson posted a handwritten letter, sent to a seven-year-old girl who had postponed her own birthday party, on his official Twitter account.Three months prior to the birthday gathering, Mr Johnson posted a handwritten letter, sent to a seven-year-old girl who had postponed her own birthday party, on his official Twitter account.
"We have all got to do our bit to protect the NHS and save lives, and that is exactly what you are doing, so well done! You are setting a great example", he wrote."We have all got to do our bit to protect the NHS and save lives, and that is exactly what you are doing, so well done! You are setting a great example", he wrote.
20 May 2020 - garden drinks party20 May 2020 - garden drinks party
Boris Johnson has already apologised to MPs for attending a drinks party in the Downing Street garden, saying he spent 25 minutes thanking staff, before returning to his office.Boris Johnson has already apologised to MPs for attending a drinks party in the Downing Street garden, saying he spent 25 minutes thanking staff, before returning to his office.
Staff had been invited to "bring your own booze" to the event. Mr Johnson said he had not been notified in advance and had "believed implicitly" it had been a work event.Staff had been invited to "bring your own booze" to the event. Mr Johnson said he had not been notified in advance and had "believed implicitly" it had been a work event.
The rulesThe rules
This was during the first lockdown when people could not leave their homes - or be outside the place they lived - without a reasonable excuse, which included work (where you couldn't work from home).This was during the first lockdown when people could not leave their homes - or be outside the place they lived - without a reasonable excuse, which included work (where you couldn't work from home).
It would be difficult to see how the Downing Street event would have been in line with these rules, argues Mr Wagner.It would be difficult to see how the Downing Street event would have been in line with these rules, argues Mr Wagner.
"If you were doing something which wasn't necessary for work then you weren't outside of your house [with] a reasonable excuse and you were potentially committing a criminal offence.""If you were doing something which wasn't necessary for work then you weren't outside of your house [with] a reasonable excuse and you were potentially committing a criminal offence."
However, Mr Wagner added that as the prime minister and his wife live in Downing Street they would not have technically left their home to attend the party.However, Mr Wagner added that as the prime minister and his wife live in Downing Street they would not have technically left their home to attend the party.
The law also banned gatherings in a public place of more than two people, unless they were all members of the same household or the gathering was "essential for work purposes". However, lawyers have noted that Downing Street is not a public place.The law also banned gatherings in a public place of more than two people, unless they were all members of the same household or the gathering was "essential for work purposes". However, lawyers have noted that Downing Street is not a public place.
On the day of the party, the government Twitter account reminded people of the existing guidance that gatherings must be limited to two people outside.On the day of the party, the government Twitter account reminded people of the existing guidance that gatherings must be limited to two people outside.
Mr Johnson told MPs that as a "work event", the gathering was technically within the guidance.Mr Johnson told MPs that as a "work event", the gathering was technically within the guidance.
At the time, the "working safely during coronavirus" guidelines said only "absolutely necessary participants should attend meetings and should maintain 2m separation throughout". Generally, workers were told to "reduce the number of people you spend time with in a work setting".At the time, the "working safely during coronavirus" guidelines said only "absolutely necessary participants should attend meetings and should maintain 2m separation throughout". Generally, workers were told to "reduce the number of people you spend time with in a work setting".
There is nothing in the guidelines that would suggest that drinking, socialising or other types of work event along these lines would have been allowed.There is nothing in the guidelines that would suggest that drinking, socialising or other types of work event along these lines would have been allowed.
What about the rules around other gatherings?What about the rules around other gatherings?
On 18 June 2020 there was a gathering in the Cabinet Office - which is at 70 Whitehall, next door to Downing Street - for the departure of a No 10 private secretary.
The former director of ethics in the cabinet office, Helen MacNamara, has apologised after confirming that she received a fine for attending the event.
This gathering was the day before the one for Mr Johnson's birthday. The rules were the same: gatherings of more than two people inside were banned by law. An exception was allowed if the gathering "was reasonably necessary" for work purposes.
On 15 May 2020, the prime minister and his staff were pictured in the Downing Street garden with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard. This was during the first lockdown when people could not leave their homes without a reasonable excuse. Mr Johnson said that the photo showed "people at work".On 15 May 2020, the prime minister and his staff were pictured in the Downing Street garden with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard. This was during the first lockdown when people could not leave their homes without a reasonable excuse. Mr Johnson said that the photo showed "people at work".
On 27 November 2020, there was a gathering for a special adviser who was leaving. At this point, a second lockdown was in force and indoor gatherings with other households were not allowed (unless for work).On 27 November 2020, there was a gathering for a special adviser who was leaving. At this point, a second lockdown was in force and indoor gatherings with other households were not allowed (unless for work).
This lockdown ended on 2 December and England moved to a tier system of restrictions.This lockdown ended on 2 December and England moved to a tier system of restrictions.
On 17 December 2020 a gathering for the departure of a No 10 official took place. London was under tier 2 restrictions, which banned two or more people from different households from meeting indoors, unless "reasonably necessary" for work purposes.On 17 December 2020 a gathering for the departure of a No 10 official took place. London was under tier 2 restrictions, which banned two or more people from different households from meeting indoors, unless "reasonably necessary" for work purposes.
The same rules would also have applied to a party - which was joked about in a leaked Downing Street press conference video - alleged to have taken place on 18 December 2020. At this time, London had been moved to tougher tier 3 restrictions.The same rules would also have applied to a party - which was joked about in a leaked Downing Street press conference video - alleged to have taken place on 18 December 2020. At this time, London had been moved to tougher tier 3 restrictions.
Furthermore, the government's guidance for the Christmas period specifically said: "Although there are exemptions for work purposes, you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier."Furthermore, the government's guidance for the Christmas period specifically said: "Although there are exemptions for work purposes, you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier."
This line was tweeted out by the government Twitter account in response to a question from a member of the public about whether Christmas parties were allowed in the workplace.This line was tweeted out by the government Twitter account in response to a question from a member of the public about whether Christmas parties were allowed in the workplace.
When Boris Johnson was subsequently asked in Parliament about whether a party did take place on 18 December, he told MPs: "I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged, that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken."When Boris Johnson was subsequently asked in Parliament about whether a party did take place on 18 December, he told MPs: "I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged, that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken."
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Watch: What has the PM said before about alleged No 10 parties?Watch: What has the PM said before about alleged No 10 parties?
On 16 April 2021, on the eve of the socially-distanced funeral for Prince Philip, two leaving parties took place in Downing Street. Boris Johnson did not attend these. The rules banned gatherings indoors between different households (unless in a support bubble). There was an exemption for "work purposes" but this did not mention socialising at work.
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