Downing Street partygate: 'No one will accept a Westminster cover-up' says SNP as Met denies delaying release of report

Sue Gray is expected to deliver her long-awaited report into No 10 parties imminently, after a day which saw the Met Police come under fire over accusations of a “stitch up”.

It emerged on Friday night that the senior civil servant would not wait until the conclusion of the police inquiry before the report is released although no timescale was revealed. It was also suggested that the the report would be “heavily redacted”.

There was a furious backlash on Friday after Scotland Yard asked Gray to make only “minimal reference” to events now subject to a criminal investigation, throwing her report into disarray and potentially buying more time for Boris Johnson as he faces a threat to his leadership.

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Partygate report: Is the Metropolitan Police's investigation good news for Boris...
Boris Johnson is due to receive the report soon

In a fresh statement on Friday evening, the force said it had received the material requested from the Cabinet Office to support the investigation into possible lockdown breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall, and officers would now examine the material “without fear or favour”. It insisted that it had not delayed the publication of the report.

Commander Catherine Roper, who leads the Met’s Central Specialist Crime Command, said the timing of the document’s release was a matter for the Cabinet Office.

She said the force had asked for “minimal reference” to be made in the report to the “relevant events”, in order to “protect the integrity of the police investigation” and be “as fair as possible to those who are subject to it”.

“This will only be necessary until these matters are concluded, and is to give detectives the most reliable picture of what happened at these events. We intend to complete our investigations promptly, fairly and proportionately,” she said.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said no-one would accept a cover-up

The force previously argued the constraints on the Cabinet Office report into “partygate” were necessary to “avoid any prejudice to our investigation”.

The new statement, however, contained no mention of the term “prejudice”.

Ms Roper added: “We have not delayed this report and the timing of its release is a matter for the Cabinet Office inquiry team.”

She said the offences under investigation, where proven, would normally result in the issuing of a fixed penalty notice.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP last night repeated demands for the full unredacted report to be released as soon as possible.

He said: “No-one will accept a Westminster cover-up.

“If the UK Government refuses to publish the full unredacted report it will prove, yet again, that Westminster is utterly corrupt and broken beyond repair.

“It won’t save Boris Johnson’s skin. It will only add to the calls for him to go.”

Earlier, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the scandal had "paralysed" the Government, while Nicola Sturgeon said things were getting "murkier by the minute".

Other opposition politicians warned of a “stitch-up”.

Ms Sturgeon warned any delay in releasing the report could “help” the Prime Minister.

She said: “This gets murkier by the minute. Sue Gray and the Met are in difficult positions but the sequence of events and the situation arrived at now creates the suspicion - however unfairly - that the process of inquiry is aiding Johnson at the expense of public accountability

“I doubt Johnson cares about damage to the reputations of others - individuals or institutions - as long as he saves his own skin. But these things matter. Rapid conclusion and full publication of the findings of inquiries surely now essential for public trust.”

On a visit to Scotland, Sir Keir called for the full report to be published “as soon as possible” but conceded that “any issues of prejudice have got to be worked through”.

He said: “The more that anybody sees Boris Johnson, the more they’re frustrated at the fact that, through his misbehaviour, we now have a civil service investigation and a criminal investigation into our prime minister and into what went on in Downing Street.

“That the whole of Government is paralysed and not focused on the things that in Scotland most people here talking about: the cost of living, the price hikes, the energy price hikes, their bills are going up, they’re really worried about inflation and they know that the Government’s about to whack them with more tax – their focus is completely wrong.”

He said Boris Johnson was damaging the union and that Labour was ready to fight a general election regardless of who leads the Conservative party.

Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope accused the Met of “usurping its position by seeking to interfere in the affairs of state”.

Raising a point of order in the Commons, he said: “There is no reason for the Metropolitan Police to be able to require Sue Gray not to issue her report in an unamended way for the benefit of the Prime Minister who ordered that report, and for this House, which is eager to see that report.”

The spokeswoman for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said: “It’s incredibly painful and they have let families like mine down. My husband was completely committed to justice, and he would have been appalled by this.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “A stitch-up between the Met leadership and No 10 will damage our politics for generations, and it looks like it is happening right in front of our eyes.”

Sources close to the Gray inquiry have previously indicated the senior civil servant was concerned about the prospect of releasing a report that was shorn of some of its key findings.

Officers have not confirmed how many events they are investigating, but reports have suggested it could be as high as eight.

So far seven Tory MPs have publicly called for Mr Johnson to quit, but others are believed to have done so privately in letters to the chairman of the Conservatives’ 1922 Committee.

If the number of letters received by Sir Graham Brady hits 54, representing 15 per cent of all Tory MPs, then a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister’s leadership is triggered.

Mr Johnson would have to then win the support of half of Conservative MPs in order to stay in No 10.

It came as the minister who claimed Mr Johnson was “ambushed with a cake” at a birthday gathering during coronavirus restrictions has now said there was no cake and therefore the event was simply a meeting.

Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns defended the Prime Minister amid reports his wife Carrie had organised a surprise birthday get together on June 19, 2020, in the Cabinet room which 30 people attended.

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