Jacob Rees-Mogg dismisses Partygate as a ‘non-story’

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Jacob Rees-Mogg (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
Jacob Rees-Mogg (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

A minister risked a backlash on Friday when he dismissed Covid rule breaking in Downing Street as a “non-story”.

Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Metropolitan Police’s announcement on Thursday that it has now issued 100 fines in relation to lockdown busting parties in Downing Street and Whitehall was not as important as other “crucial things going on”.

Mr Rees-Mogg told BBC Breakfast: “I really don’t think this is the issue of the moment...there are so many crucial things going on. There are other things going on that are more important.

“I am afraid I think this is a non-story, the BBC has absolutely loved it but what is important is that we get on with the business of Government.”

In a brief update, the Met said that it had now made “more than 100 referrals for fixed penalty notices” to the criminal records office.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said following the Met’s update that neither the PM nor Cabinet Secretary Simon Case were among those fined in the latest tranche.

Boris Johnson confirmed he was not one of the most recent recipients, nor was his wife, following a Cabinet away day in Stoke-on-Trent.

The Prime Minister was fined £50 last month for attending a surprise birthday party inside Downing Street in June 2020 and could face more fines in the coming weeks as detectives continue their investigation into partygate.

But Mr Rees-Mogg questioned whether the rules in place at the time were proportionate.

He added: “This was an imprtant story in February when it became known, and that there was a great concern and there was a feeling that with people who were bereaved particularly about it. I also think we need to look in the inquiry to look at the rules and see whether they were proportionate.

“I met a couple in yesterday in Stoke on Trent where the Cabinet went who helped people with baby loss they were saying to me how cruel it was that fathers weren’t able to be present at the birth of their children particularly if it was a still birth.

“We need to look at that, we need to look at whether the rules were right in the first place in case we ever have a pandemic again because I think they were too restrictive. It was a mistake made for good reason because we were very worried about the pandemic at the time. But we do need to look at that. We must never do that to people again.”

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