Partygate: Sue Gray kept in dark as first fines issued to No 10 officials

Lockdown parties investigator not expected to be told which civil servants or politicians have received penalty notices

Sue Gray is being kept in the dark about which Downing Street parties have attracted fines, as officials began to receive £50 penalties for attending illegal lockdown gatherings, following the Metropolitan police investigation.

Emails were received by some partygoers this week, after the police said they were issuing 20 penalty notices to those they had a “reasonable belief” attended gatherings during lockdown.

However, the Met is refusing to reveal which parties have attracted fines. It is understood that Gray, the senior civil servant carrying out the inquiry into suspected Downing Street parties during lockdown, is also not being informed which events have reached the bar of criminality.

She is due to update and publish her report when the police investigation is complete, but is not expecting to receive full information on which of 12 parties under investigation and which officials, aides and potentially politicians have been fined.

The Cabinet Office and No 10 are also unaware which, if any, of its current employees have been issued with penalties.

No 10 has committed to disclosing whether Boris Johnson and Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, have received fines, but otherwise officials are not being encouraged to go public or even tell their line managers if they are handed penalties.


Their names are only likely to become public if any of them own up to having been present, or they decide to challenge the fine, which could see their name listed by the relevant magistrates court.

Labour has criticised the lack of transparency, with Keir Starmer saying on Thursday that the public must be told if the prime minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, received a fixed-penalty notice for breaking lockdown rules.

Government sources said the Met appeared to have tackled the “low-hanging fruit first” by concentrating on parties where those involved had acknowledged their participation.

The Met suggested the fines were issued as part of a “first tranche”, indicating that more could be handed out in relation to more complicated events where those involved were denying having attended illegal gatherings.

One of the events where some of the people in attendance are believed to have got fines is a leaving party on 18 June, which was held for a departing No 10 aide.

The prime minister is believed to have been present at several of the gatherings under investigation, including a birthday party and a gathering in the garden of No 10 organised by his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds.

However, he has refused to accept that a fine would mean he has broken the law, and his allies suggested he would not resign if he were issued with a penalty. He repeatedly dodged questions on the issue when he appeared at the Commons liaison committee on Wednesday.

In contrast, Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, appeared to back the view of two cabinet colleagues – Dominic Raab and Anne-Marie Trevelyan – that the issuing of Partygate fines evidence that police believe the law had been broken.

Malthouse, a Home Office minister, said it was fair to say a fixed-penalty notice (FPN) signalled police felt an unlawful act had been committed. Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Malthouse said: “A fixed-penalty notice means police have a reasonable belief that you’ve broken the law – you still have a right to challenge it if you want.

“Having said that, the police practice is not routinely to release the names of those who receive fixed penalties, and I don’t see why that rule should be waived for those people who may or may not be in receipt of it in Downing Street.”

Malthouse, who attends cabinet, said he had not personally received a fine in relation to the Scotland Yard investigation, but he would declare it if he did.

The threat by some Tory MPs to depose Johnson as leader has lessened in recent weeks amid the crisis in Ukraine, but confirmation of the first penalties on Tuesday reignited talk of a possible challenge and speculation over his future if he were issued with a fine and criticised in the Gray report.


Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

The GuardianTramp

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