Partygate: Downing Street confirm Prime Minister's office requested Sue Gray meeting despite minister saying otherwise just hours earlier

Downing Street have confirmed the Prime Minister’s office did request the meeting with Sue Gray as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the UK Government of attempting to undermine the civil servant’s report ahead of its publication.

Number 10 confirmed the meeting between Boris Johnson and senior civil servant Ms Gray was first suggested by No 10 officials after 24 hours of statements and briefings saying otherwise.

The admission came just hours after Chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke told journalists Ms Gray “instigated” the meeting.

Asked to clarify which of the two parties suggested a meeting could be helpful, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman replied: “No 10 officials.”

Downing Street confirmed No 10 officials did request the meeting with Sue Gray.

He said: “As you would expect, there is a degree of official-level contact with the investigation team as a means to receive update on things like timings.

“The potential for updating the Prime Minister on arrangements for publication following the completion of the Met’s investigation was discussed between No 10 officials and Sue Gray at official level earlier this month.

“Following that, Sue Gray’s office sent through a technical request for a meeting.

“But to emphasise, the meeting was not requested by the Prime Minister.”

The spokesman added: “Obviously Sue Gray is independent. It is up to her whether she proceeds with any meeting with regards to her investigation.”

Challenged on why No 10 officials had suggested a meeting, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “As you would expect for reports like this, it is understandable that there would be a need to share information on things like timings and publication process because obviously there is a process for No 10 and the Prime Minister that would flow off the back of Sue Gray completing her report.

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“So that then helps with our planning purposes and things like that.”

Earlier Mr Johnson had insisted Ms Gray was “of course” able to act independently, but declined to answer questions about the meeting.

Asked if the report was still an independent one, the Prime Minister said: “Of course, but on the process you are just going to have to hold your horses a little bit longer.

“I don’t believe it will be too much longer and then I will be able to say a bit more.”

Sir Keir claimed Mr Johnson should take responsibility for any law-breaking in No 10.

Asked if he had any fears over public officials “carrying the can” for the Prime Minister, Sir Keir said: “The culture is set at the top, the can should be carried by the Prime Minister.

“He has responsibility. I doubt he will, because he doesn’t take responsibility for anything he’s done in his life.

“But the culture in Downing Street is set from the top, as it is with any organisation, and that culture has led to industrial-scale law-breaking.”

He added: “I always had a concern that as we got to the publication of the Sue Gray report, there will be attempts by the Government to undermine her and undermine the report.

“That’s what we’ve seen going on over the weekend in recent days – a new low for the Government.”


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