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Downing Street party: What were the Covid rules at the time? Downing Street party: What were the Covid rules at the time?
(about 2 hours later)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologised for a video where senior No 10 staff joked about holding a Christmas party last December.Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologised for a video where senior No 10 staff joked about holding a Christmas party last December.
Mr Johnson says he was "repeatedly assured that the rules were not broken" and has ordered an investigation into exactly what happened.Mr Johnson says he was "repeatedly assured that the rules were not broken" and has ordered an investigation into exactly what happened.
What's the row about?What's the row about?
The Daily Mirror first reported last week that a party took place in Downing Street last December.The Daily Mirror first reported last week that a party took place in Downing Street last December.
Downing Street insisted no party took place and that "Covid rules have been followed at all times". A number of ministers appeared on television and radio to repeat the denials.Downing Street insisted no party took place and that "Covid rules have been followed at all times". A number of ministers appeared on television and radio to repeat the denials.
But a source has confirmed to the BBC that there was a party on 18 December, with "several dozen" people in attendance.But a source has confirmed to the BBC that there was a party on 18 December, with "several dozen" people in attendance.
A video - obtained by ITN - shows a recording of a rehearsal on 22 December for Downing Street's proposed media briefings. A video - obtained by ITV News - shows a recording of a rehearsal on 22 December for Downing Street's proposed media briefings.
This video can not be playedThis video can not be played
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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
In the video, the prime minister's then-press secretary Allegra Stratton is asked by colleagues about reports of a party. She jokes: "This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced."In the video, the prime minister's then-press secretary Allegra Stratton is asked by colleagues about reports of a party. She jokes: "This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced."
Ms Stratton has offered her resignation saying she would "regret the remarks for the rest of my days". Ms Stratton has resigned and said she would "regret the remarks for the rest of my days".
The prime minister has asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to investigate the party. Downing Street has declined to comment on whether he attended it.The prime minister has asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to investigate the party. Downing Street has declined to comment on whether he attended it.
And at a government briefing Boris Johnson said: "To the best of my knowledge we have followed the rules throughout."
What were the Covid rules at the time?What were the Covid rules at the time?
Any party at Downing Street would have breached the government's guidelines at the time.Any party at Downing Street would have breached the government's guidelines at the time.
Its 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."Its 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 same line was also tweeted out by the official gov.uk account on 17 December 2021 in response to a question about whether Christmas parties were allowed in the workplace.This same line was also tweeted out by the official gov.uk account on 17 December 2021 in response to a question about whether Christmas parties were allowed in the workplace.
London at the time was in Tier 3 (it went into Tier 4 on 21 December) and the law banned gatherings of two or more people indoors unless it was "reasonably necessary" for work.London at the time was in Tier 3 (it went into Tier 4 on 21 December) and the law banned gatherings of two or more people indoors unless it was "reasonably necessary" for work.
There was also a specific prohibition on organising an indoor gathering of more than 30 people.There was also a specific prohibition on organising an indoor gathering of more than 30 people.
But there may have theoretically been a legal loophole for government buildings like 10 Downing Street because of the 1984 legislation used to bring in the tier system, according to Adam Wagner - a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and an expert on Covid regulations.But there may have theoretically been a legal loophole for government buildings like 10 Downing Street because of the 1984 legislation used to bring in the tier system, according to Adam Wagner - a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and an expert on Covid regulations.
Another barrister, Charles Holland from Trinity Chambers, tweeted that there would have needed to be an agreement with Westminster City Council for the regulations to apply in Downing Street.Another barrister, Charles Holland from Trinity Chambers, tweeted that there would have needed to be an agreement with Westminster City Council for the regulations to apply in Downing Street.
We have asked Westminster City Council to confirm whether this was the case, but they have yet to respond.We have asked Westminster City Council to confirm whether this was the case, but they have yet to respond.
Were there other parties?Were there other parties?
There are multiple reports of another party taking place on 27 November, which is understood to have been a leaving party for Cleo Watson, a former aide to Dominic Cummings.There are multiple reports of another party taking place on 27 November, which is understood to have been a leaving party for Cleo Watson, a former aide to Dominic Cummings.
Boris Johnson is reported to have made a speech at that event, mentioning how crowded it was in the room.Boris Johnson is reported to have made a speech at that event, mentioning how crowded it was in the room.
At that point there was still a national lockdown in force, which ended on 2 December. Indoor gatherings were also not allowed in lockdown.At that point there was still a national lockdown in force, which ended on 2 December. Indoor gatherings were also not allowed in lockdown.
Several sources have told the BBC about a Christmas quiz that took place at Downing Street around the same time as the 18 December party, with some people participating virtually but other groups present in person.Several sources have told the BBC about a Christmas quiz that took place at Downing Street around the same time as the 18 December party, with some people participating virtually but other groups present in person.
And the Department for Education has said of a gathering for staff in December 2020 with drinks and snacks that "we accept it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time".And the Department for Education has said of a gathering for staff in December 2020 with drinks and snacks that "we accept it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time".
The cabinet secretary will also be investigating the DfE party.The cabinet secretary will also be investigating the DfE party.
What happened to people who broke the rules?What happened to people who broke the rules?
Thousands of of people were fined for breaking rules on gatherings last year, according to figures from the National Police Chiefs' Council.Thousands of of people were fined for breaking rules on gatherings last year, according to figures from the National Police Chiefs' Council.
Between March 2020 and January 2021:Between March 2020 and January 2021:
2,982 fines were issued in England for participating in a gathering inside a house or any indoor space in a Tier 3 area.2,982 fines were issued in England for participating in a gathering inside a house or any indoor space in a Tier 3 area.
250 fines were issued in England for holding a gathering of more than 30 people250 fines were issued in England for holding a gathering of more than 30 people
At the time, large parties could be shut down by the police - with fines of up to £10,000. Examples include:At the time, large parties could be shut down by the police - with fines of up to £10,000. Examples include:
The organiser of a party in High Wycombe, attended by about 200 people, was fined last DecemberThe organiser of a party in High Wycombe, attended by about 200 people, was fined last December
More than 100 people attended a party in Northampton, also in December. The organiser was given a £10,000 fineMore than 100 people attended a party in Northampton, also in December. The organiser was given a £10,000 fine
In February, a woman was fined £10,000 for organising a birthday party, attended by more than 30 people in OrmskirkIn February, a woman was fined £10,000 for organising a birthday party, attended by more than 30 people in Ormskirk
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