Boris Johnson Responds to Met's Partygate Questionnaire

© REUTERS / TOM NICHOLSONBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, February 9, 2022
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, February 9, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.02.2022
As the Metropolitan Police investigate a total of 12 allegedly lockdown-defying parties held at No. 10 Downing Street between 2020 and 2021 when strict COVID-19 restrictions were in place, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had received a legal questionnaire from Scotland Yard 11 February and was given seven days to respond to the email.
Boris Johnson has responded to the Scotland Yard legal questionnaire pertaining to the so-called “partygate” probe that he received on 11 February, reported Sky News citing a No 10 spokesperson.
It was confirmed that the UK Prime Minister, just like other reported guests at the 12 purportedly lockdown-breaching parties held at 10 Downing Street between 2020 and 2021, answered questions about his whereabouts and activities and returned the document.
Johnson had been given seven days to respond to the document, with Downing Street previously saying that the PM’s responses would not be made public.
The questionnaire, which has formal legal status, had been sent out to all those believed to have attended the events that are being scrutinised by the Metropolitan Police (Met) and requires the recipient to provide their account of their role in the aforementioned gatherings.
A police officer walks past the door to 10 Downing Street, the official residence of Britain's Prime Minister, in London on January 25, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.02.2022
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The Met investigation, part of what has been dubbed Operation Hillman, has already seen more than 50 people contacted. While Scotland Yard had stated earlier that the people in question will not necessarily be slapped with fines, it added:
"Nevertheless, if following an investigation, officers believe it is appropriate because the COVID regulations have been breached without a reasonable excuse, a fixed penalty notice will normally be issued."
The investigation by the Metropolitan Police follows a Whitehall probe into the partygate allegations led by senior civil servant Sue Gray. Only initial findings were published, however, as the PM said an updated version of the report would come out once the Met wrapped up its own investigation. Gray had focused on 16 events, between May 2020 and April 2021, 12 of which are being investigated by Scotland Yard.
The Cabinet Office report acknowledged there were "failures of leadership and judgement by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office" and "some of the events should not have been allowed to take place". It added that “some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify".
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the ACF building at the Technopole in Edinburgh - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.02.2022
Downing Street Reportedly Asks Police to Keep 'Partygate' Photos Under Wraps
According to the preliminary findings, there was an excessive consumption of alcohol that "is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time."
The Downing Street garden was used for gatherings "without clear authorisation or oversight" which "was not appropriate" during a time of strict COVID-19 restrictions set in place to stop the spread of the respiratory disease.
Last month Sue Gray had passed on the evidence her probe had accumulated, including around 300 photographs pertaining to the partygate row, to the Metropolitan Police.

Staff Granted ‘Limited Access to Notes’

The Met blocked the full publication of the Cabinet Office inquiry in January amid concerns that it could prejudice its own probe. However, according to ITV News, before completing their Met questionnaires, Downing Street staff will be allowed to read evidence gathered about them by Sue Gray.
The outlet cited a leaked letter allegedly written to staff by Gray that grants them, including PM Boris Johnson, limited access to notes taken about them during her internal probe.
"I appreciate that this is a worrying time for those affected by this process, which I do not wish to compound," states the leaked latter dated 17 February, but "in light of particular circumstances surrounding this set of events I have, as an exceptional measure, decided that individuals may be provided with limited access to the notes".
Staff will be allowed to cross-reference information Gray gathered only on themselves.
The letter also states that staff may view the notes “with a member of the investigation team present,” the viewings will be “time limited," and they cannot bring “phones, tablets, computers or any other recording equipment into the room”.
There has not yet been any official comment from the Cabinet Office.
Meanwhile, the allegations of lockdown-busting gatherings in Downing Street and across Whitehall in 2020 and 2021 have piled pressure on Boris Johnson, who is reported to have attended as many as six of the 12 events under investigation.
These include a leave gathering at the Downing Street residence on 13 November 2020 when the PM’s aides Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain exited their official roles, as well as an event to mark the PM's birthday on 19 June 2020.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for the House of Commons for his weekly Prime Minister's Questions in London, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.02.2022
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Furthermore, last week a photo emerged of Johnson at a Christmas quiz in Number 10, next to an opened bottle of alcohol, and one person wearing tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat.
In the wake of Sue Gray’s report, the PM apologized, reshuffled senior staff and vowed more changes to his Number 10 operation.
While a total of 14 Tory MPs have so far called for Boris Johnson to resign in the wake of the scandal, many MPs are believed to be waiting for the results of Scotland Yard’s investigation.
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