Boris Johnson could still face MPs over a highly anticipated report into parties in No 10 before the week is out, a Cabinet minister has suggested, as No 10 braced for the results of the investigation which could determine the Prime Minister’s future.
A report by senior official Sue Gray was expected to be handed to Downing Street on Wednesday but reports suggested the final document was still being pored over overnight.
Tory MPs have held off until the publication of the report to pass judgment on their leader over multiple alleged parties across No 10 and Whitehall during coronavirus restrictions.
It is not clear what the report has discovered but an indication of how damaging it could be for the Government came when Scotland Yard chief Dame Cressida Dick announced a police inquiry was being carried out, based in part on evidence obtained by the Gray investigation.
There was speculation that after the report was not delivered on Wednesday, MPs and the public may have to wait until after the weekend for its publication, as Mr Johnson had promised to address the Commons shortly after it was released.
There were suggestions that due to Thursday being Holocaust Memorial Day and many MPs being back in their constituencies from Thursday afternoon, No 10 may hold off on publishing the report once it was received.
However, Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said the conclusions would be important enough to bring to the House straight away.
He told the BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “Well as Leader of the House, ministers bid via the leader’s office for statements, and it’s absolutely true that I have discouraged statements on Holocaust Memorial Day because there is a debate for that.
“But this issue is of such importance that I think MPs would want to have a statement as soon as the report was available, and on days when the House is sitting MPs have a priority towards the House, even if they’ve got other arrangements first, the House comes first for Members of Parliament.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told ITV’s Peston: “I read it might be the end of the week, but as you say it could be early next week. Let’s wait and see.”
Mr Kwarteng also told the programme he was “100% behind the Prime Minister”, who he repeatedly noted was bound by the ministerial code.
Earlier, during Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested Mr Johnson had misled Parliament about Downing Street parties, something which would normally require a minister to resign.
Asked if he would quit, the Prime Minister said: “No.”
Mr Johnson replied: “Of course he wants me out of the way – he does, and of course I don’t deny, for all sorts of reasons, many people may want me out of the way.”
Mr Rees-Mogg said Mr Johnson would not have to step aside even if he was interviewed by police in their probe.
Speaking on Channel 4 News, Mr Rees-Mogg said “that wouldn’t be a resigning matter, because people are innocent in this country until proved guilty”.
But if the outcome of the Gray report is significantly damaging, Mr Johnson could face a revolt from his own MPs, who may choose to call a vote of no confidence.
The Daily Mail reported that Tories were urging the PM to scrap a planned hike in national insurance to win back their support.
The Commons Treasury Committee has warned in a report released on Thursday that the rise in employer national insurance contributions would contribute to a rise in inflation.
Conservative MP for Bolton North East Mark Logan said that while Mr Johnson had his support, there needed to be a reset.
He told Sky News: “There has to be a huge change. There has to be a change of heart with the Prime Minister, there has to be a change of approach and a whole change to the infrastructure around the Prime Minister.”
Mr Kwarteng meanwhile denied reports he was against the national insurance rise, as he told Peston: “We’ve had a settled Cabinet position.”
He added: “We’re all committed to the national insurance rise because that’s the best way… to fund the huge amounts of money that we need to make sure that we clear the backlog from the coronavirus in the NHS, and also, we can put our social care – health and social care – on a good footing.”
When the Gray report is published, sources close to the investigation team expect it to be published in full, although ultimately it is a matter for Mr Johnson to decide.
Downing Street said it is the “intention” to publish the report in the format in which Mr Johnson receives it.
“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,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
Labour could use parliamentary procedures in an attempt to force the publication of the full Gray report if Mr Johnson does not release it.
That could take the form of a “humble address”, effectively a message to the Queen demanding the publication of papers.