Boris Johnson has said he is “absolutely not” delaying the release of a much-anticipated report into lockdown parties at Downing Street and Whitehall – and promised it would be released in full.
The report, which is being compiled by senior civil servant Sue Gray, has yet to be received by Number 10
Asked during a visit to North Wales whether he is planning to delay the release of the report, the prime minister said: “Absolutely not. But you’ve got to let the independent inquiry go on.”
Asked about whether he would publish the report in full, Mr Johnson said “of course”.
He added: “I can’t go beyond what I said yesterday, but I stick to what I said to the House of Commons.”
Uncertainty regarding how much of Gray report will be published
Yesterday, Mr Johnson failed to explicitly commit to publishing the full report once the findings of the inquiry are finally received by Downing Street.
Asked at PMQs by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer if he will release the entirety of Ms Gray’s report, the prime minister replied: “We’ve got to leave the report to the independent investigator, as he knows, of course when I receive it, of course, I will do exactly what I said.”
Sir Keir said anything other than the document being published “in full” would amount to a “cover up”.
Meanwhile, the PM’s spokesman said this week: “The findings will be made public in line with the terms of reference. It is our intention to publish those findings as received.”
Pressed on why full publication was not guaranteed, the spokesman said: “It is simply a reflection of the fact that we have not received the findings and don’t know its format, that’s why it remains our intention to publish it as received.”
Labour call for report to be released ‘in full’
Sky News understands Ms Gray wants the report to be published in full and it will cover all the alleged events, not just those the police are not investigating.
It is believed the Labour Party could try and use parliamentary procedures to try and force the publication of the document in full if the government chooses not to do so.
Such an attempt could take the form of a “humble address”, effectively a message to the Queen demanding the publication of papers.
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she expected the Sue Gray report into claims of lockdown-busting parties to be published in full, but could not say when it would be made public.
Asked by broadcasters when she expected it to be delivered, said: “You’re asking me a question… I’m struggling to answer exactly when it will be published. I know that she will publish it as soon as she is able to.”
On Wednesday, Ms Truss told Sky News there could be “security issues” which mean parts of it are “problematic to publish”.
Along with questions regarding just how much of Ms Gray’s work will be made publicly available, there is also speculation around the timing of the report’s publication.
Report being checked by ‘lawyers, HR and the Met’
It is believed the delay in publishing the report is in part due to Ms Gray wanting to run the report past lawyers, HR and the Metropolitan Police to make sure the document can be published in full.
It was thought that on Wednesday a delicate checking process was being carried out to ensure a duty of care was being given to Downing Street staff who may be implicated in the report.
Explainer: Who is party investigator Sue Gray?
Suggestions that this could happen on Wednesday afternoon were dealt a blow after the Commons adjourned almost three hours early, before 5pm.
And the hopes of MPs being able to consider the report today were also dashed with MPs having concluded their business for the day.
Meanwhile, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told reporters everyone should respect the ministerial code, including the prime minister.
He told reporters that he expects the Gray report to be printed “in full”, adding: “I expect MPs to be able to read that before the statement.
“I want them to be informed, to ask the right questions, and to have a debate and questioning of the prime minister, who quite rightly has said ‘I am coming to the House of Commons, I am coming there first’.
“Well, let’s make sure that whether it’s the opposition or MPs from the government, that they have sight of that statement before it’s made.”
Met Police launch criminal investigation
The announcement by Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick that her force is investigating “a number of events” for potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations has placed more pressure on the PM over partygate.
Mr Johnson’s leadership has come under severe pressure amid the ongoing scandal and he could face a vote of no confidence if more than 54 Conservative MPs submit letters to the 1922 Committee of backbenchers.
Mr Johnson has welcomed the probe and said it would “help draw a line under matters”.
Downing Street has said the PM is willing to be interviewed by police but does not believe he has broken the law.
Sky News understands the Met Police investigation will take “weeks, not days”.