"The hardship under which citizens across the country worked, lived and sadly even died while observing the Government’s regulations and guidance rigorously are known only too well" - Sue Gray 31 January 2022
Civil servant Sue Gray has now completed what is referred to as an "Update" about her "Investigation into alleged gatherings on government premises during Covid restrictions"
A statement was made by the Prime Minister to the House of Commons - statement 31 January.
An update - NOT a full report:
The published documentat para 16 makes it clear that Sue Gray was providing an "update" setting out "some general findings."
It is not clear whether the FULL report will be published
Some general findings only:
The Police investigation is on-going and this is used as a reason to publish only minimal information about the various gatherings which Sue Gray considered.
The update lists 16 gatherings over twelve dates in 2020 and 2021. However, the Police are investigating 12 of the gatherings. Four are considered not to meet the threshold for investigation.
There is no comment about whether "individual gatherings were in line with the relevant guidance and regulations in place at the time." At para 9, Gray comments that it is "not for me to make a judgment on whether the criminal law has been broken; that is properly a matter for law enforcement."
The update contains some trenchant criticism of the situation in Downing Street during this period. Gray observed that - "At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.
Further, the update notes -
"At times it seems there was too little thought given to what was happening across the country in considering the appropriateness of some of these gatherings, the risks they presented to public health and how they might appear to the public. There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times. Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did."
There is also the comment that - "The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time. Steps must be taken to ensure that every Government Department has a clear and robust policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace."
No 10 as a dedicated Office of the Prime Minister:
The update notes the steady increase over recent years in the number of staff working at No 10 Downing Street. "In terms of size, scale and range of responsibility it is now more akin to a small Government Department than purely a dedicated Prime Minister’s office. The structures that support the smooth operation of Downing Street, however, have not evolved sufficiently to meet the demands of this expansion. The leadership structures are fragmented and complicated and this has sometimes led to the blurring of lines of accountability. Too much responsibility and expectation is placed on the senior official whose principal function is the direct support of the Prime Minister. This should be addressed as a matter of priority."
It appears that, as a result of this comment, the Prime Minister will create an "Office of the Prime Minister" with its own Permanent Secretary. Further announcements about this will follow.
The Police investigations will continue. Whether fixed penalty notices are issued remains to be seen.
It is unclear whether the FULL report of Sue Gray's investigation will ever be published.
Unless the full report is published we are unlikely to discover Gray's view of the the 12 events including the four which are not the subject of Police investigation.
The criticisms in the update are carefully worded but they are a clear condemnation of the general culture at Number 10 - the Prime Minister's office and London flat.
Whatever the Prime Minister's political supporters now choose to do, the fundamental reason remains as to why all of this has caused such outrage. The government, with Johnson at its head, enacted severe peacetime restrictions. Politicians, including Johnson, exhorted the people to obey the rules. The rules were enforced with considerable zeal by many Police Officers including those in London.
The need for those in government to not only obey the rules but also be seen to do so is vital if government is to maintain any moral authority. As things stand, that moral authority is in tatters.
Further developments are awaited .... updates will be added below .....
31 January 2022
Financial Times - An indictment of Boris Johnson's Downing Street
Regarding whether the FULL Gray report will eventually be published see -
4 February 2022 -
Re resignations of staff at Downing Street - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-60253231