I fully understand the anger felt by many at reports that a party was held in Downing Street in December last year and by the subsequent comments made by staff at a press conference rehearsal. I have received a number of emails from constituents about this and can appreciate their strength of feeling, particularly among those who were prevented from seeing members of their own family at that time.
In response to questions I have been asked today, I can assure you that I was at home in Maldon throughout the lockdown period and did not attend any event. Nor is there any suggestion that the Prime Minister or any members of the Government were present or involved in the organisation of this event. The Prime Minister has repeatedly been assured by those who were at Downing Street that night that no rules were broken. He has however apologised to the House of Commons and stated that an inquiry will be held to find out what occurred.
I know that most people regard Number 10 as a home but it is a workplace – I used to work there – and a reasonably large number of relatively young staff there regularly work long hours. As key workers, some senior civil servants in Whitehall were at their desks rather than working from home, and the premises had been assessed as covid secure.
However, I should be clear that if there was indeed a party – rather than just the initial reports that people wore Christmas jumpers and brought nibbles – this was entirely wrong and against the rules which were clearly stated at the time.
As those who appear to have been involved were civil servants, it is right that the Head of the Civil Service undertakes the inquiry and that, if it turns out that the assurances given to the Prime Minister about events were inaccurate, then disciplinary action should be taken.
I agree that it is totally unacceptable that the rules on what everyone was allowed to do last Christmas, may have been ignored by those working at the very top of Government. The public deserves better than this and I have made this clear to the Prime Minister.