Partygate: No 'air of doubt' over Sue Gray report despite Boris Johnson meeting, declares UK minister
It comes as officials set to be named by Ms Gray in her coming report into Downing Street gatherings during Covid lockdowns were given until 5pm on Sunday to lodge any objections.
Ms Gray is expected to publish her report this week.
It is understood around 30 individuals, including Mr Johnson, have been told they are likely to be named.
The Met Police announced on Thursday it had concluded its own investigation, resulting in a total of 126 fines being issued to 83 people, including one to Mr Johnson and another to Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Pressed on who called the meeting been Ms Gray and the Prime Minister, Mr Zahawi told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme he did not know precisely who booked all of the events in his own diary.
“Meetings go in my diary where if I come on here and you said to me how did this meeting get in, I would have to tell you the honest truth is I don’t know, one of my officials would have probably put it in the diary,” he said.
“So let’s not … create this sort of air of doubt around a process that has been absolutely robust and rigorous.”
Mr Zahawi said he had not asked No. 10 who called the meeting between Mr Johnson and Ms Gray because he did not deem it necessary.
Asked if he had called Downing Street for clarification over the matter, he told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “I don’t need to because I don’t believe that having a meeting with your senior civil servant is material to the outcome.
“That civil servant is independent in their investigation and has the highest level of professionalism and integrity.
“The Prime Minister has made it very clear that he has never intervened or will seek to intervene or interfere with the investigation.”
Pressed on what is transparent about a meeting between the Prime Minister and Ms Gray, whose report could decide his political future, he accused interviewer Jo Coburn of “throwing mud at something which doesn’t exist”.
He added: “The answer is the Prime Minister will never intervene in Sue Gray’s investigation. The Prime Minister wants Sue Gray to basically go wherever the evidence takes her.”
Mr Zahawi stressed Ms Gray would not be “pulling her punches” in her final partygate report.
Shadow Treasury minister Pat McFadden said: “I’ve got every faith in Sue Gray’s integrity and she is a civil servant of the highest integrity. We don’t know the details of that meeting, it’s not clear who called it, there’s different accounts of that, so it’s hard for me to say what was said there.
“I do have faith in her integrity and let’s see what she says when the report comes out.”
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