It is understood the department has sought clarification as police continue to examine 12 gatherings.
16 February 2022
The Cabinet Office has sought to clarify with the Metropolitan Police whether it will publish more than 300 photos received as part of the inquiry into alleged parties in Downing Street and across Whitehall.
The force is unlikely to reveal the names of any individuals hit with fines linked to the 12 gatherings under investigation, as the identity of people issued with a fixed-penalty notice (FPN) is not usually disclosed by police.
It is understood the Cabinet Office is now seeking to clarify whether the photos sent to the Met as part of its inquiry will be made public, given that they could potentially identify those involved.
The Met declined to comment, and it is not thought the Cabinet Office has yet received a response to its query.
More than 300 photos and 500 pages of information were given to the force by the Cabinet Office last month.
ITV News reported the query was lodged by the department’s liaison unit, which is separate to senior civil servant Sue Gray’s investigations team.
The Cabinet Office said it will not comment on an ongoing investigation.
It follow reports that a Q&A sheet was sent by the liaison unit to Government officials caught up in the inquiry, detailing certain aspects of what information will and will not be published by the police over the course of their investigation.
The document, cited by The Daily Telegraph, reportedly suggests the number of fines issued for the alleged parties – if any – will be made public by the Met.
Scotland Yard is also expected to publish its reasons for issuing any tickets, according to the advice sheet.
However, officials were reportedly told the names of those receiving FPNs – if such fines are imposed – will not be revealed and their details will not be shared with the Civil Service.
The Met confirmed a document had been drawn up by the Cabinet Office to brief staff and it was “consulted on those aspects relevant to its investigation and legal processes”.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that the Prime Minister is working with a personal lawyer on his response to the police investigation.
According to ITV News, Mr Johnson’s legal advisers believe that if he can prove he did not get drunk at any of the events he allegedly attended, and resumed normal prime ministerial duties afterwards, he may be able to make the case they were part of his working day.
The PM previously admitted he was present for 25 minutes at the notorious “bring your own booze” gathering in the Downing Street garden in May 2020, but said he thought it was a “work event” to thank staff for their efforts during the pandemic.
Downing Street has also admitted staff “gathered briefly” in the Cabinet Room in June 2020 in what was reportedly a surprise get-together for the Prime Minister.
The Met has sent a questionnaire to approximately 50 people as it conducts its inquiry, titled Operation Hillman, which is examining whether Covid restrictions were broken in Downing Street and across Whitehall.
Mr Johnson received his questionnaire on Friday. Downing Street has since said his responses will not be made public.
Asked about reports the PM requested that police write directly to his lawyer, rather than to him, No 10 said on Monday it would not get into any more detail about “what legal advice the Prime Minister has or hasn’t received”.