Good morning. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, was doing the morning interview round this morning and, although mostly he was asked about the expansion of the booster programme announced last night, he also faced questions about new reports about Downing Street breaking Covid rules last year. We’ve had a steady stream of such stories during the pandemic, some more consequential than others, and the latest is by Pippa Crerar in the Daily Mirror, who says Boris Johnson and his Downing Street staff “have been accused of breaking Covid rules by attending parties at Number 10 in the run-up to last Christmas”. Crerar reports:
The prime minister gave a speech at a packed leaving do for a top aide last November when the country was in the grip of its second lockdown.
Then just days before Christmas, with London in tier 3 restrictions, members of his top team held their own festive bash in Downing Street.
Officials knocked back glasses of wine during a Christmas quiz and a Secret Santa while the rest of the country was forced to stay at home.
Around “40 or 50” people were said to have been crammed “cheek by jowl” into a medium-sized room in Number 10 for each of the two events.
“It was a Covid nightmare,” one source claimed.
The Mirror quotes from the lawyer Adam Wagner, who says that if there was an unofficial Christmas party on 18 December, it probably broke the rules. The paper also says that, when it put the story to No 10, Downing Street did not dispute that the gatherings took place, but claimed no rules were broken.
Asked about the story on the Today programme, Javid – who only became health secretary because Matt Hancock resigned after breaking Covid restrictions – replied:
Whatever would have happened at No 10 throughout the pandemic, I’m absolutely certain all the rules around the pandemic would have been followed. Obviously I can’t tell you what’s going on on a daily basis in any building. But what I can tell, if it’s government, and especially No 10, is that all the rules would have been followed at all times.
Javid also told the interviewer, Mishal Husain, not to assume that the news report was accurate. But when asked if the report was definitely inaccurate, he just said: “I can tell you all rules would have been followed at all times.”
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The ONS publishes a report on the characteristics of people getting Covid.
10am: Leading lawyers give evidence to the Commons home affairs committee about rape prosecution rates.
10am: The People’s Covid Inquiry publishes a report based on the hearings it held earlier this year.
12pm: Boris Johnson faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.
2.15pm: Sir Tom Scholar, permanent secretary at the Treasury, gives evidence to the Commons Treasury committee.
3pm: Tom Pursglove, a Home Office minister, gives evidence to the joint committee on human rights about the nationality and borders bill.
4pm: Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, discusses the Northern Ireland protocol at a Public Policy Projects event.
4.30pm: Maroš Šefčovič , vice president of the European Commission, gives evidence to MLAs about the Northern Ireland protocol.
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