A Government minister has said he understands the anger and upset caused by claims Boris Johnson’s aide organised a Downing Street drinks party during the first lockdown in 2020.
Health minister Ed Argar told Sky News on Tuesday morning (January 11): “I can understand that with these allegations people will be upset and angry, which is why it’s right that the Prime Minister asked for that independent investigation to be completed at pace, to get to the facts behind these allegations.”
He said he would not “pre-judge” an inquiry by Cabinet Office official Sue Gray.
“What actually happened or didn’t happen in Downing Street is a matter for Ms Gray,” he said.
“She will come up with her conclusions having interviewed the relevant people, having looked at the evidence and … she will then conclude a) what did or didn’t happen, and then b) whether anything that did happen was consistent with the rules.”
Asked if he would have accepted an invitation to an alleged Downing Street drinks party during the first lockdown, health minister Ed Argar said he spent last May “glued to my Zoom screen”.
He told Sky News: “I spent my May last year talking to you on various occasions, and various other media outlets, but pretty much glued to my Zoom screen and making sure that I knew what the regulations were – not least because I was a health minister who’d helped draw them up.”
Pressed on whether he would have accepted such an invitation in light of this, he said: “I wasn’t invited to any parties and I’m not going to get into any hypotheticals.
“I was clear about what the rules were at the time and it’s right that Sue Gray is looking into this matter independently.”
Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, sent an email to more than 100 Downing Street employees asking them to “bring your own booze” for an evening gathering, ITV reported.
Mr Reynolds said they should “make the most of the lovely weather”, despite England being under tough coronavirus restrictions banning groups from meeting socially outdoors when the message was sent.
A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: “The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street on May 20 2020 and is in contact with the Cabinet Office.”
Multiple reports have suggested the Prime Minister attended the event with his wife, Carrie Johnson.