LONDON (Reuters) – Britain published an internal inquiry into potential breaches of lockdown regulations by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his staff, following reports of more than a dozen social gatherings, including alcohol-fuelled parties in Downing Street.
The report’s contents were limited following an announcement by London’s Metropolitan Police that they would launch a formal investigation into several of the gatherings.
“We carried out interviews of over 70 individuals, some more than once, and examined relevant documentary and digital information, such as emails; Whatsapp messages; text messages; photographs and building entry and exit logs. This has also included searches of official records.”
Below are key findings from the report:
“Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify.”
“At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population
at the time.”
“At times it seems there was too little thought given to what was happening across the country in considering the appropriateness of some of these gatherings, the risks they presented to public health and how they might appear to the public. There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times. Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did.”
“The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time. Steps must be taken to ensure that every government department has a clear and robust policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace.”
“The use of the garden at No 10 Downing Street should be primarily for the Prime Minister and the private residents of No 10 and No 11 Downing Street. During the pandemic it was often used as an extension of the workplace as a more Covid secure means of holding group meetings in a ventilated space. This
was a sensible measure that staff appreciated, but the garden was also used for gatherings without clear authorisation or oversight. This was not appropriate. Any official access to the space, including for meetings, should be by invitation only and in a controlled environment.”
“Some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so. No member of staff should feel unable to report or challenge poor conduct where they witness it.”
“The number of staff working in No 10 Downing Street has steadily increased in recent years … The structures that support the smooth operation of Downing Street, however, have not evolved sufficiently to meet the demands of this expansion. The leadership structures are fragmented and complicated and this has sometimes led to the blurring of lines of accountability. Too much responsibility and expectation is placed on the senior official whose principal function is the direct support of the Prime Minister. This should be addressed as a matter of priority.”
“There is significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across Government. This does not need to wait for the police investigations to be concluded.”
(Reporting by William James and Kylie MacLellan; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)