Sue Gray has received photos of Downing Street parties which include Boris Johnson and others close together with wine bottles, Sky News understands.
The latest revelation comes shortly after a government source said senior civil servant Ms Gray’s report into parties in Downing Street and Whitehall that may have broken COVID rules could be published as soon as today.
Sky News understands Number 10 has yet to receive a copy of the report, but that once it is received, it could be published within hours.
The prime minister has vowed to make a statement and answer questions in the House of Commons after its publication.
Sky News understands the Met has not raised an objection to the Cabinet Office inquiry being released before its criminal investigation has concluded.
Gray report could be published as soon as today
Downing Street reiterated on Tuesday afternoon that the government wants the report to be published “as soon as possible” and insisted Number 10 is not trying to block its publication.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson told reporters talks are taking place between Ms Gray’s inquiry team and the Metropolitan Police to decide what can be published from her investigation into the ‘partygate’ row.
Ms Gray’s report is likely to provide a factual account of what happened at a number of alleged parties, and may present a judgement on whether the events breached rules in place at the time.
Earlier this month, the PM issued an apology in the House of Commons for attending an event in the Number 10 garden on 20 May 2020, claiming he thought it was a “work event”, and asked people to wait for Ms Gray to publish her findings.
Opposition parties and some critics on his own backbenches say any evidence he has misled parliament would amount to a breach of the ministerial code and require the prime minister’s resignation.
Mr Johnson’s leadership is under severe pressure and could be put to a vote if more than 54 Conservative MPs submit letters of no confidence to the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs.
Number 10 insist publication of Gray report is not being blocked
The prime minister’s official spokesperson told reporters on Tuesday afternoon talks are taking place between Ms Gray’s inquiry team and the Met Police to decide what can be published from her investigation into the ‘partygate’ row.
“There are discussions still ongoing between the investigations team and the police. I am not privy to those discussions, as I think you’ll appreciate,” he said.
“That still needs to be worked through, both in relation to what may or may not be published and the ongoing work of both the police and the (Gray) investigation.”
The PM’s spokesperson added that decisions on publication were a matter for the Cabinet Office and police and “we are not, as in Number 10, seeking to block that in any way”.
He added it “certainly remains the case that we would want it to be published as soon as possible”, but added: “I would not want to be perceived as putting undue pressure on either the investigations team or the police.”
PM says police investigation ‘will help give public clarity’
Earlier today, Downing Street said the prime minister is willing to be interviewed by police but does not believe he has broken the law.
And speaking in the Commons, the prime minister told MPs: “I welcome the Met’s decision to conduct its own investigation because I believe this will help to give the public the clarity it needs and help to draw a line under matters.”
The Met wrote to the Cabinet Office on Tuesday morning, formally requesting that it refers all relevant information from its inquiry in relation to the events under investigation to support the force’s work.
At this stage there is no estimate for how long its investigation will take, although sources have told Sky News it will take “weeks, not days”.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said it’s “quite right” that Ms Gray and the Met Police are investigating alleged events in Downing Street and Whitehall for potential breaches of coronavirus regulations.
Party pictures follow reports on birthday gathering
The latest reports that Ms Gray has received pictures of the prime minister attending events in Downing Street where alcohol was present come less than 24 hours after Number 10 admitted the prime minister had a birthday celebration there during the first COVID lockdown in 2020.
The PM is under pressure following a raft of disclosures surrounding gatherings in Downing Street and a number of government departments during COVID restrictions.
Mr Johnson has already admitted attending a garden party in Downing Street in May of that year, which was described by one of his aides as a “bring your own booze” event.
But he has claimed he thought it was a “work event” and that “nobody told me” it was against the rules.
The revelation that officials held two parties in Downing Street the day before the Queen sat alone at Prince Philip’s funeral in April last year also provoked fury.
Number 10 later apologised to the Queen and said Mr Johnson was not in Downing Street that day.
Calls for PM to resign grow
Opposition parties have called on him to resign, with some of his own backbench MPs also demanding Mr Johnson go.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday evening, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said cabinet ministers “need to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why they’re still supporting this PM” following the announcement of a Met police probe into Downing Street parties.
Calling for the Gray report to be published “in full”, he continued: “It’s time that some of those cabinet members spoke out and said we’re not tolerating this any longer.”