Downing Street ‘intends’ to hold Christmas party, despite hangover from last year

·4-min read
Kit Malthouse outside Number 10 Downing Street - Kirsty O'Connor/PA
Kit Malthouse outside Number 10 Downing Street - Kirsty O'Connor/PA

Downing Street will hold a Christmas staff party this year despite the furore over a gathering last December and whether it broke lockdown rules.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed that there was an "intention" for Number 10 to have a festive party in the coming weeks.

It comes despite ministers being forced to defend an event that reportedly took place last Christmas that may have broken Covid rules.

Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, on Monday said police would look at the allegations if alerted, while also insisting he was told no rules had been broken.

Mr Malthouse also said that the police had a duty to look into historic crimes – comments that clashed with an attempt by Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, to dismiss the claims on Sunday.

The furore surrounded a Daily Mirror report last week about a No 10 staff party that allegedly took place in December and saw party games played, as well as food and drinks being served, until past midnight.

At the time, Tier 3 rules were in place in London that explicitly banned work Christmas lunches and parties where it was "a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted".

‘There was not a party’

Political opponents have accused Downing Street staff of not living by the rules they had imposed on the country.

Court records showed police were prosecuting a 36-year-old man for holding a gathering of two or more people in Ilford, east London, on the same day as the alleged No 10 event.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman on Monday declined to say whether an internal investigation had been carried out into the gathering.

The spokesman told reporters: "There was not a party, and Covid rules have been followed at all times."

That position chimed with that of Boris Johnson, who told the Liverpool Echo: “No Covid rules were broken.”

Number 10 also made clear that Downing Street was still considering holding a staff party this year despite Mr Raab ruling out one for the Ministry of Justice.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We haven't confirmed any dates at the moment. I think there is an intention to have a Christmas party this year.

"There is nothing in the limited restrictions that we've introduced that would prevent Christmas parties from taking place."

The Prime Minister last week rejected calls for Christmas parties and school nativities to be cancelled due to the emergence of the omicron variant of Covid.

Mr Malthouse was repeatedly asked about the No 10 event during a round of broadcast interviews on Monday to discuss the Government’s drugs crackdown.

‘I take that reassurance at face value’

Mr Malthouse told Sky News of the gathering: "I know nothing about it – I've been assured by No 10 that no rules were broken if there was a gathering of any kind.

"No 10 are reassuring everybody that all rules were complied with during that period and I take that reassurance at face value, but no doubt if the police are alerted they will have a look and they will form a view and we'll learn more about it in the days to come.

"The police should be investigating anything that is a historic crime to them."

The comments were a marked contrast to those of Mr Raab, who raised eyebrows in an interview on Sunday, saying that police have been clear "they don't normally look back and investigate things that have taken place a year ago".

Mr Malthouse, a Home Office minister, said he is "not an investigator" when questioned on BBC Radio 4's Today programme how the Christmas party could have been within the rules.

"I asked the question – were all the regulations complied with – I was reassured they were, I have to take that at face value, that's absolutely what I'm sure is the case, it's for others if they want to decide to take it further," he added.

"They reassured me that all the regulations were followed and, of course, I believe them."

He declined to say whether it would have been within the rules for BBC staff to have held a party with drinks, nibbles and party games.

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