The Deputy Prime Minister said the Ministry of Justice will only be having ‘appropriate drinks’ instead of a knees-up in the building’s atrium in Westminster
The Deputy Prime Minister has admitted his department won’t have a big Christmas party this year – despite telling Brits to “enjoy” festive knees-ups.
Dominic Raab, who is also Justice Secretary, said the Ministry of Justice will have “appropriate drinks at a smaller scale” but not a big gathering in its atrium.
He encouraged firms to show “common sense” and said “every employer will think about the right way to do it”.
He made the comments on Sky News, one hour before saying Brits would have a “great Christmas” with family around them due to the booster campaign.
Mr Raab told the BBC : “I think people should enjoy Christmas, get their loved ones around them, celebrate it in a way we haven’t been able to in the past.” He added: “People should go to the parties, the events.”
The comments come after days of mixed messaging and will raise fresh questions about what “appropriate drinks” are.
Business minister George Freeman was slapped down last week after saying “four or five staff working together every day anyway” were okay, but firms might want to reconsider bringing “hundreds of people around the world to a big party”.
Boris Johnson ’s official spokesman responded: “On Christmas parties, we don’t want people to cancel such events.”
Mr Raab told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “The rules are very clear.
“People can go in and have Christmas parties – of course employers will want to think common sense about how they do that.
“We won’t be having a Ministry of Justice-wide Christmas party this year. We will be having appropriate drinks at a smaller scale.
“The Government wants people to be able to enjoy Christmas this year. People should feel free to go and enjoy those celebrations and every employer will think about the right way to do it and I’m the same as everybody else.”
Later Mr Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show he would “continue to be vigilant” but “we’re in a much more confident position because of the vaccine, because of the boosters”.
He said: “I think it’s going to be a great Christmas. All the family, friends, loved ones being able to get together in a way we haven’t been able to do for a couple of years is really important.”
Asked if he’d see elderly relative he replied: “Yes.
“Of course it always depends a little bit on their personal condition, if they’re safeguarding it may be different.
“But I think people should enjoy Christmas, get their loved ones around them, celebrate it in a way we haven’t been able to in the past.”
Government guidance strongly encourages people to wear masks in crowded indoor spaces, and suggests they could take lateral flow tests before socialising.
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Elsewhere Mr Raab refused to deny the Mirror’s exclusive revelations that parties were held in No10 in November and December last year, while millions of people were under lockdown rules.
Boris Johnson has also not denied reports that his staff held a party on December 18 last year when London was under Tier 3 restrictions.
But while the PM has insisted that no rules were broken, Mr Raab admitted a party would have been a breach of the rules.
He said: “If anyone held a party that it is contrary to the rules, of course that is the wrong thing to do.
“If something unsubstantiated from anonymous sources actually materialised then of course it would be wrong.”
Cambridge University statistician Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said today he fears increased contacts over the festive season could trigger restrictions in January.
“Just like last year with the Alpha variant, this is a terrible time for a variant to come along, when the next two weeks are probably some of the highest-risk periods with a lot of indoor socialising that we know is extremely high risk,” he told Sky News.
“It’s appalling timing. I’m sure the Government would love not to disrupt Christmas. What happens after Christmas of course is another matter. The travel restrictions at the moment are only going to slow things up a little bit, possibly or to some extent, but they’re not going to stop it. It’s going to come in.”
He added: “The New Year is quite likely to see quite a lot of challenges to face – and as SAGE have said, that could very well mean more stringent measures. I could mention working from home.
“So far it’s not been recommended but that is known to be extremely effective at halving the number of close contacts people have.”
Omicron is “spreading pretty rapidly” in the UK, a Government adviser warned.
Professor Mark Woolhouse, who is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “The Omicron variant is highly transmissible, it appears to be spreading very rapidly in South Africa and the early signs are that it’s spreading pretty rapidly in the UK too.
“If those trends continue then over the course of the coming weeks and months, Omicron could even come to replace Delta entirely right around the world.”