Boris Johnson has apologised for a video in which aides appeared to joke about a Christmas party during lockdown.
Announcing an investigation into the incident, the prime minister told the Commons he was “furious” to see the footage of his former press secretary.
He said: “I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing No10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures.
“I can understand how infuriating it must be to think that people who have been setting the rules have not been following the rules because I was also furious to see that clip.
“I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives.”
However, the prime minister insisted he had been “repeatedly assured” since the allegations emerged that there was “no party and that no Covid rules were broken”.
The PM said he had asked the cabinet secretary Simon Case to “establish all the facts” and to report back “as soon as possible”.
Johnson said that if rules were broken: “There will be disciplinary action for all those involved.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer hit back saying Johnson’s apology “raises more questions than answers”.
The Labour leader said: “The prime minister, the government, spent the week telling the British public there was no party. All guidance was followed completely.
“Millions of people now think the prime minister was taking them for fools, that they were lied to. They are right aren’t they?”
Johnson repeated his apology, adding that he was “sickened”.
When Starmer pointed out the leadership of the Queen during the pandemic - who had to sit alone at her husband’s funeral - Johnson claimed Labour was “playing politics”.
The PM accused Starmer of trying to “muddy the waters” over pandemic guidance. But the Labour leader hit back, saying: “That’s so desperate and even his own side can see it.”
"It's obvious what happened. Ant and Dec are ahead of the prime minister on this"
Labour leader Keir Starmer says Boris Johnson is "pretending" he hadn't heard about Downing Street party, but PM says he has been assured no rules were broken#PMQshttps://t.co/sPXyCwRMtjpic.twitter.com/J1yLO63zuy
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) December 8, 2021
The scandal has left the prime minister facing serious questions over his own comments about the incident.
Over the past week, Johnson has insisted that Covid rules were followed “at all times” in No10. However, he repeatedly dodged questions about whether or not a party took place.
The huge row derailed this morning’s media round and even saw TV’s Ant and Dec mock the prime minister on last night’s I’m A Celebrity.
The saga all centres on an alleged Christmas party in No10 in December 2020 – when social mixing indoors was banned in London under Tier 3 restrictions.
“Several dozen” members of staff are said to have played party games and had food and drink at the event that apparently went on past midnight on December 18.
The controversy reached new heights last night when bombshell footage emerged of senior aides joking about a “fictional” party just four days after the gathering.
The video was revealed by ITV following an exposé in the Mirror last week that claimed there was a party in Downing Street on December 18.
In the footage, the prime minister’s then press secretary is seen answering questions at a mock press conference on December 22.
Allegra Stratton is asked by colleagues about reports of a party the previous Friday and in jokey exchanges, she says: “This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.