Boris Johnson has denied claims he has personally delayed the publication of Sue Gray’s report into alleged Covid rule-breaking parties at Downing Street.
Asked if he was delaying reports, the prime minister said: “Absolutely not but you’ve got to let the independent inquiries go on.”
On a visit to North Wales, Mr Johnson was also asked whether the government would “publish [Ms Gray’s report] in full”. “Of course,” he replied.
It comes as a second cabinet minister suggested a General Election may have to be called if Mr Johnson is ousted as his allies sought to pile pressure on Tory MPs not to move against him over the “Partygate” scandal.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries joined Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg in raising the prospect of the nation having to go to the polls again, and Conservative MPs potentially losing their seats.
The report is understood to have been completed by Ms Gray and to be undergoing checks by lawyers, HR chiefs as well as with the Metropolitan Police to ensure its publication will not compromise the force’s probe into the “Partygate” scandal.
Some MPs believe it may be delayed until Monday.
Foreign Secretary does not know when the Sue Gray report will be published
18:08 , Robert Dex
Liz Truss said she expected the Sue Gray report into claims of lockdown-busting parties to be published in full, but could not say when it would be made public.
The Foreign Secretary, asked by broadcasters in Northern Ireland when she expected it to be delivered, said: “You’re asking me a question … I’m struggling to answer exactly when it will be published.
“I know that she will publish it as soon as she is able to.”
Speaker says everyone including the Prime Minister should respect the ministerial code
18:06 , Robert Dex
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said everyone should respect the ministerial code, including the Prime Minister.
He told the PA news agency: “What I would say is the ministerial code is there and the Prime Minister’s said he will come to the House to make that statement, and others will make judgment on that.
“If the ministerial code has been broken, in fairness everybody must respect the code, whether it’s the Prime Minister or a minister, it is there for those to abide by. I think in fairness to the Prime Minister he’s said he abides by the ministerial code.”
On the Sue Gray report, he said: “Of course I expect the report to be printed in full, I expect MPs to be able to read that before the statement.
“I want them to be informed, to ask the right questions, and to have a debate and questioning of the Prime Minister, who quite rightly has said ‘I am coming to the House of Commons, I am coming there first’.
“Well, let’s make sure that whether it’s the opposition or MPs from the Government, that they have sight of that statement before it’s made.”
17:53 , Robert Dex
Supporters of the Prime Minister are “more and more confident” the threat to his leadership is fading, according to one political journalist.
Noa Hoffman from Politics Home reports one MP saying “there is a confidence” that 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady will not receive the 54 letters required to trigger a no confidence vote in the Conservative party leader.
🔷👀 MPs and insiders involved in the “shadow whipping operation” to shore up support for Boris Johnson amid partygate have told PoliticsHome they are “more and more confident” serious threats to his leadership from within have dampenedhttps://t.co/aEZ9NxonsL
— Noa Hoffman (@hoffman_noa) January 27, 2022
Foreign Secretary criticised after trip down under
17:27 , Robert Dex
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss discovered there is no escape from the Government’s troubles even thousands of miles away after being accused of a “grotesque misuse of taxpayers’ money” following reports she chartered a private jet to Australia which would have cost £500,000.
The Independent reported the Foreign Secretary had opted for the private flight for her trip last week due to security concerns, although commercial flights were available.
The newspaper said she had travelled on the private government Airbus A321, which a senior source told them would have cost £500,000 to operate.
The Foreign Office said the trip was within the rules set by the ministerial code.
Conservative parliamentarians split on the PM’s future, warns one journalist
17:24 , Robert Dex
The political editor of The Spectator paints a picture of a troubled Conservative parliamentary party with pro and anti-PM factions fighting it out.
Writing in the magazine, James Forsyth said Johnson’s supporters “feel they spend all day trying to bail water out of the boat, only to be hit by another wave as yet another story breaks”.
But he also cautions his readers on who to believe, saying one minister told him MPs were at the stage of “lying to everyone” about what they think of the situation.
Government faces ‘acutely embarrassing’ moment warns Laura Kuenssberg
17:16 , Robert Dex
The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg is predicting a difficult weekend for the government waiting for the report saying Monday is the “most likely” date for publication.
Whatever the date, the veteran Westminster watcher says it is likely to be a “grisly, acutely embarrassing” moment for Downing Street.
Prime Minister still in Wales as Westminster waits for report
15:56 , Robert Dex
The Prime Minister has been away from Westminster today in Wales including a visit to a waste recycling centre on Anglesey.
Mr Johnson did not take questions from the media while on site and left after his 30-minute visit to travel the short distance to RAF Valley to continue his visit to North Wales.
Former PM Tony Blair refuses to say whether Boris Johnson should resign
14:30 , Elly Blake
Former prime minister Tony Blair has refused to say whether he thinks Boris Johnson should resign.
Asked by CNN presenter John Berman if he would like to comment, Mr Blair said: “Not really, it’s not something for me to get into, because frankly it makes absolutely no difference what I say anyway.”
JUST NOW: Asked fmr PM Tony Blair if he thought Boris Johnson should resign
BLAIR: "Not for me to get into. Because frankly it makes no difference what I say anyway."
ME: "That usually doesn't stop people from sharing their opinions on cable!"pic.twitter.com/3JfGMjc7OJ
— John Berman (@JohnBerman) January 27, 2022
To which Mr Berman quipped: “That doesn’t stop people from sharing their opinions on cable TV quite often.”
Mr Blair continued to shut down the line of questioning by saying: “Absolutely, you are completely right John. But on this occasion I want to be concentrating more on what I think is really the big challenge.”
PM says he is ‘absolutely not’ delaying publication of Sue Gray report
13:37 , Elly Blake
Boris Johnson said he would publish the Sue Gray report in full but could not give a timescale.
He told reporters during a visit to North Wales: “I can’t really say any more than what I said yesterday about that.”
Asked if he was personally delaying the report, he replied: “Absolutely not but you’ve got to let the independent inquiries go on.”
He added: “What I hope people understand is that while we wait for all that to go on, you’ve got to get on, and the Government is getting on with our work.
“So it’s clearing the Covid backlogs but also making sure that we help to fix the cost of living crisis and help to address the issues with inflation by helping to move people off welfare into work.”
PM defends tax hike in April
13:26 , Elly Blake
Boris Johnson has defended the planned 1.25 per cent rise in National Insurance, due to take place in April.
Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to North Wales, the prime minister: “It’s so important that we raise the funding to cope with the Covid backlogs, the damage that Covid has done to… particularly to our NHS, and every penny of this goes to tackling our NHS backlogs and fixing social care.”
He continued: “Every penny will go towards fixing the Covid backlogs and also social care, the two things are connected.”
Asked if the rise would go ahead, he said it was “absolutely vital”, and he added: “I think people do understand. Look, I don’t think there’s a family in this country that hasn’t been affected by the Covid backlogs in one way or the other.
“I bet you know somebody who’s had their treatment or scan delayed because of what we went through over the last 18 months.
“We had to spend over £400 billion keeping the British economy going during the lockdowns, we’ve got now to move forward, we’ve got to fix the Covid backlogs, we’ve got to sort out social care. I think that’s the right thing to do.”
Claims PM approved airlift of animals out of Afghanistan ‘total rhubarb’, Boris Johnson says
13:06 , Elly Blake
Boris Johnson has dismissed claims he approved the airlift of animals out of Afghanistan as “total rhubarb”.
Asked during a visit to North Wales if he authorised evacuating animals out of Kabul over humans, he said: “No, that is… this whole thing is total rhubarb.
“I was very proud of what our armed services did with Op Pitting and it was an amazing thing to to move 15,000 people out of Kabul in the way that we did,” Mr Johnson continued.
“I thought it was also additionally very good that we were able to help those vets who came out as well.
“But I can tell you that the military always prioritised human beings and that was quite right.
“I think we should be incredibly proud of Op Pitting and what it achieved.”
No 10: We want civil servants to return to Whitehall
13:03 , Elly Blake
Downing Street said Whitehall civil servants were returning to their desk as the Plan B coronavirus measures were falling away.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Yes, I think we have been clear we want to return to full occupancy of Whitehall offices, obviously recognising how flexible working has been used before the pandemic as well.”
The spokesman added: “We recognise that taxpayers are funding these offices and it’s right that they are used fully as before the pandemic.
“But we know that civil servants throughout the pandemic have been working extremely hard, many of whom have not been able to work from home because they have been part of that frontline response.”
Keir Starmer: PM must publish Gray report in full
12:59 , Josh Salisbury
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has told reporters on a visit to Grimsby that the Sue Gray report must be published in full in the format it is given to Boris Johnson in.
Sir Keir said: “I mean in full - not redacted, not edited, not a summary, not parts left out. In full."
"After what everybody in the country's been through in the last year or two with the pandemic, huge sacrifices have been made, the least that they're entitled to is the truth about what the Prime Minister was up to."
He added that he believed this would allow everyone to see for themselves what Sue Gray’s understanding is of what happened during the alleged lockdown-breaking parties in Downing St and Whitehall.
No 10 insists PM ‘focused on people’s priorities’
12:34 , Josh Salisbury
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson has insisted that Boris Johnson is “focused” on people’s priorities as Westminister awaits the publication of the Sue Gray report.
Asked how Mr Johson feels ahead of the report, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I think you saw the Prime Minister in the House yesterday talking about what the Government is doing, what he is focused on.
"That absolutely remains the case and that's why he is getting out today to Wales to look at what work the Government's doing on things like creating jobs."
Asked if the Government had been distracted from policymaking by the partygate saga, the spokesman said: "No, we are getting on with the job, as the Prime Minister said yesterday."
End of Plan B boosts the big return
11:41 , Elly Blake
Central London’s economy is starting to motor again as the last of the Plan B restrictions ended in England on Thursday and hopes rise of a vigorous spring revival.
A slew of encouraging “Great Return” indicators — from office occupancy levels to train use and restaurant bookings — have boosted “cautious optimism” that the West End and City are returning to life after the hugely-damaging work from home guidance ended last week.
London offices were 25 per cent full on Tuesday — more than double the level of Monday — and ahead of any monthly average since October, according to the latest data.
Read the full article here.
Wrong of MPs to ‘pressurise independent investigator over speed of report’, says Jacob Rees-Mogg
11:35 , Elly Blake
Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “It’s wrong of members of this House to pressurise the independent investigator over the speed of her report.”
Labour MP Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) said: “Further to Mr Speaker’s announcement that there will be no statements today, it does rather leave unanswered the question that many members of the public want to know, is there whereabouts of Sue Gray’s urgent and very important report into the numerous reported events and parties during lockdown that this No 10 took part in.
“So we know the Prime Minister has been known to hide in a fridge to avoid questions, so can the Leader of the House confirm that there will be no hiding from the outcome of this report, that it will be published in full, and that we will be granted time in this House to scrutinise its findings in full?”
Mr Rees-Mogg responded: “It’s wrong of members of this House to pressurise the independent investigator over the speed of her report.
“It would be wrong for the Government to put pressure on her, it is wrong of the opposition to do it. Sue Gray is doing it independently, and she must be given the time that she needs to do it.
“But of course, as the Prime Minister has said, when the report is released he will come to the House, he will make a statement, and he will be open to questions. That is the proper parliamentary procedure.”
Labour obsessed with cake, says Jacob Rees-Mogg
11:06 , Elly Blake
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg accused Labour of being obsessed with cake when challenged over Downing Street party allegations and the cost of living crisis.
Responding to questions from Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds, Mr Rees-Mogg told MPs: “May I say how pleased I am that she’s finally moved off cake because it seemed to me over the last few weeks that all the Opposition could ever talk about was cake.
“Whether we’ve had our cake and eaten it, or whether there has been no cake or whether there was never any cake or what cake there may have been, whether it was baked, how many eggs were in the cake, whether it was made with margarine or butter, what type of cake it was, did it have sponge or was it chocolate?
“All these issues about cake, the obsession of the Opposition, so I’m glad we’re now getting on to some more serious subjects.”
He went on to defend the Government’s response to rising prices.
Ms Dodds had warned: “While the Prime Minister is desperately trying to shore up his own position and the Leader of the House is busy threatening backbenchers with an early general election, working families are hit with steep rises to energy prices, falling real wages and Tory tax rises.”
Labour doubles down on calls for Sue Gray report to be published in full
10:56 , Elly Blake
Shadow secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities Lisa Nandy has said she “will not rest until the British public have the answers that they deserve.
Speaking during a visit to Grimsby, Ms Nandy said: “The prime minister has said he will publish it in full, he must publish it in full and, if he won’t publish it in full, we will take every step that we can to make sure that information is in the public domain.
“But, most of all, he should know – and his MPs should know – that the public will not accept anything less than a full and honest account of what has been happening in Downing Street through these very difficult years.”
Labour to ask urgent question on the evacuation of animals from Afghanistan
10:45 , Elly Blake
Labour has been granted an urgent question in the Lords on the evacuation from Afghanistan of animals for the Nowzad charity, the party has said.
It is expected at around 11.50am.
Sue Gray’s report has ‘no standing’, says former Met Police boss
09:09 , Elly Blake
Former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent Dal Babu said Sue Gray’s report has “no standing” and is “no different” from a human resources report.
Mr Babu said he is concerned about the delay over a police investigation into whether there were parties in No 10 and Whitehall during the 2020 coronavirus lockdowns.
The penalty for breaching lockdown rules is a fixed penalty notice, which, Mr Babu said, is an “entry-level crime” that is as “simple as they can get” in terms of police investigations.
He told Sky News: “I think the issue around the delay is worrying. I’m not entirely sure why there’s a delay.
“I do investigations into matters since I’ve left the police and when I investigate matters… as soon as there’s any suggestion of criminality, you would then stand back and allow the police to have priority.
“Sue Gray’s report has no standing. She’s a very eminent person, very able, but, in essence, it’s just a report.
“It is not a judge-led inquiry, she doesn’t have any specific powers to call people to give evidence. So her report will be no different to a human resources report.”
Pictured: PM leaving Downing Street on Thursday
08:56 , Elly Blake
Boris Johnson has been pictured leaving his residence in Downing Street on Thursday as he heads off to an official engagement.
It comes as reports suggest a new collection of Tory MPs are poised to force a no-confidence vote in the prime minister.
‘The pandemic is not over – everyone should remain cautious,’ says PM
08:30 , Elly Blake
Boris Johnson has urged millions of people to “remain cautious” against Covid as Plan B restrictions were axed on Thursday.
The prime minister hailed the “success of our booster roll-out, the tireless work of the NHS and the amazing public response” which he stressed meant the measures were ending in England from midnight on January 27.
The success of our booster rollout, the tireless work of the NHS and the amazing public response means Plan B measures have ended in England today.
The pandemic is not over – everyone should remain cautious, and I urge anyone who hasn’t yet got their vaccine to come forward.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 27, 2022
However, with signs that the sharp fall in Omicron cases in London and other places may have slowed, he also stressed: “The pandemic is not over – everyone should remain cautious, and I urge anyone who hasn’t yet got their vaccine to come forward.”
Kabul dog rescue emails ‘speak for themselves’, says top Tory MP
08:27 , Elly Blake
Foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said on Thursday that the defence secretary had never ordered animals to be evacuated out of Kabul over people.
But he added that emails suggesting the prime minister personally authorised the evacuation of almost 200 cats and dogs from Afghanistan when thousands of people were struggling to escape. "speak for themselves".
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "I can’t really comment in any more detail than what has been published. The emails really speak for themselves and need to be read alongside other evidence.
"The defence secretary has made it extremely clear in evidence on Tuesday this week before the committee that there was no such order.
“I have to say the defence secretary has always spoken honestly on this. You’ll have to read the emails and see whether you think there were others who were working around the system. That I can’t answer, but it is certainly true that the defence secretary has been extremely clear on this and I take him at his word."
Second Cabinet minister suggests General Election needed if PM ousted
08:24 , Elly Blake
A second Cabinet minister has resorted to suggesting a General Election may have to be called if Boris Johnson is ousted, our political editor Nicholas Cecil reports.
Mr Johnson’s allies sought to pile pressure on Tory MPs not to move against him over the “Partygate” scandal.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries joined Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg in raising the prospect of the nation having to go to the polls again, and Conservative MPs potentially losing their seats.
Mr Rees-Mogg told BBC Newsnight on Tuesday that the modern precedent is for a new incumbent in Downing Street to go to the polls to seek a fresh mandate.
He said: “It is my view that we have moved, for better or worse, to essentially a presidential system and that therefore the mandate is personal rather than entirely party, and that any Prime Minister would be very well advised to seek a fresh mandate.”
His view was slapped down by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss who said talk of the need for a General Election in the event of Mr Johnson being toppled was “complete hypothetical speculation”.
Parliamentarians also pointed out that there was no General Election when Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair in June 2007.
Blair as example of why we won’t need GE is wrong. It was yonks ago Blair to Brown smooth pre announced handover, no leadership election. Brown was still pressured to go, bottled it and then lost.
V different times pre rolling 24hr news / social media.
— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) January 27, 2022
But Ms Dorries tweeted on Thursday: “Blair as example of why we won’t need GE is wrong. It was yonks ago Blair to Brown smooth pre announced handover, no leadership election.
“Brown was still pressured to go, bottled it and then lost. V different times pre rolling 24hr news / social media.”
Theresa May’s former chief-of-staff Lord Barwell dismissed Ms Dorries’ argument, tweeting: “How about May to Johnson as a more recent example?
“None of you said there had to be a general election then - we only ended up with one when the PM concluded it was the only way to break the Brexit deadlock.”
PM did not make ‘individual decisions’ on Afghan evacuations, says minister
07:34 , Elly Blake
Cabinet minister Therese Coffey insisted Boris Johnson did not make any “individual decisions” on Afghan evacuations despite a leaked email suggesting he had “authorised” the removal of animals from Kabul.
The work and pensions secretary told Sky News: “The prime minister didn’t make any individual decisions about evacuations.
“A lot of people will claim that the prime minister is involved in supporting their particular pet projects, but the prime minister said he wasn’t involved in individual decisions.
“That is what the defence secretary, who was in charge of Operation Pitting overall, has said as well.”
PM committed to publishing ‘full findings’ of Sue Gray report, says minister
07:26 , Elly Blake
Boris Johnson is committed to publishing the “full findings” of the Sue Gray report, a cabinet minister said on Thursday.
However, the work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey stopped short of saying that the full report by the top civil servant into the string of “parties” in Downing Street would be made public.
Speaking on Sky News, she said: “The government is committed to publishing the full findings of the report but the timing I have no idea about.”
Final Plan B restrictions lifted
07:14 , Elly Blake
Face masks and Covid passes are no longer legally required in England, in the latest rolling back of Plan B rules.
The changes came into effect on at midnight on Thursday.
The government has insisted restrictions can be lifted due to the vaccine rollout’s success and a better understanding of Covid, as we “learn to live with the virus”.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said mask wearing would now be “a matter of personal judgment”.
Restrictions in care homes in England will ease from January 31.
The government has said there will be no limit on the number of visitors allowed at care homes, self-isolation periods will be cut and care homes will only have to follow outbreak management rules for 14 days, not 28.
Read more about the rule changes here.
07:10 , Elly Blake
Another busy day in politics, no doubt, as the prime minister nervously waits for the publication of Sue Gray’s ‘partygate’ report.
We will be bringing you the latest updates throughout the day from the heart of Westminster and beyond.
Follow the live updates here.