ue Gray has criticised “serious failings” at the heart of Government in her bombshell report into lockdown busting parties in Downing Street.
The 59-page document, released on Wednesday morning, includes details of 16 events across Whitehall and in Downing Street in breach of Covid laws.
In one damning Whatsapp message exchange, outlined in the report, top civil servant Martin Reynolds boasted “we seem to have got away with” a drinks party in the Downing Street garden on May 20, 2020.
Also included in the report are photographs from former No10 director of communications Lee Cain’s lockdown leaving party in November 2020 at which the Prime Minister gave a toast in front of a table strewn with half empty alcohol bottles.
During a Christmas party on December 18, 2020, the day before London was plunged into Tier 4 Covid restrictions, staff took part in a Secret Santa gift exchange, quiz and prize giving in the area just outside the No 10 Press Office.
Up to 45 people gathering the room where awards certificates were handed out by senior special adviser Jack Doyle.
The morning after a cleaner “noted that there had been red wine spilled on one wall and on a number of boxes of photocopier paper”, the report found.
Details of Boris Johnson’s birthday party in June 2020 were also published in the document.
Mr Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were all fined £50 for attending the event during the first national lockdown.
Ms Gray’s investigation found that the events “were attended by leaders in government” and many “should not have been allowed to happen”.
“Many will be dismayed that behaviour of this kind took place on this scale at the heart of Government,” she said.
“The public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places and clearly what happened fell well short of this.”
“It is also the case that some of the more junior civil servants believed that their involvement in some of these events was permitted given the attendance of senior leaders. The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture.”
However, she added that it was her “firm belief” the events “did not reflect the prevailing culture in Government and the Civil Service at the time”.
“A number of these gatherings should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did,” Ms Gray found. “There is significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across Government. This does not need to wait for the police investigations to be concluded.”
Boris Johnson will make a statement on the report findings in the Commons later on Wednesday following Prime Ministers Questions.