Environment secretary George Eustice has this morning avoided questions over potential resignations in the aftermath of the Sue Gray report’s publication.
Eustice also appeared to diminish the potential significance of the report, suggesting that he did not think “anything new will come from” its publication, expected today.
Speaking to told Times Radio, Eustice claimed the prime minister had already restructured and changed “how things work” in Downing Street.
“I think the reality is that fixed penalty notices have been issued to those people who the police judged shouldn’t have been at those particular events.
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“Just like the prime minister they should pay those fixed penalty notices and we have got to learn from this and make changes to ensure that the culture that allowed that boundary between a drink or a leaving do, a sort of leaving speech at the end of a day in a working environment, allowed that to be blurred to what now looks like parties in some cases. We have just got to make sure that that can’t happen.”
He also rejected questions over whether the PM ought to “carry the can” for the scandal, stating: “Sue Gray highlighted that there is responsibility at many different levels, at many different levels of management and that there were failings of people not to sort of step in and say that this shouldn’t happen.”
He suggested that rule-breaking had occurred because the boundaries of the rules became “blurred” to some staff.
“Clearly what happened in No 10 is a culture developed where they were working there… and there were times when they would have a drink at the end of the day… and that boundary between what was acceptable and what wasn’t got blurred and that was a mistake and Sue Gray highlighted those failings in her first interim report,” he explained.
Downing Street is expected receive the report this morning. It will then be published. Johnson will then attend Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons at its usual noon slot. According to reports, the PM will make a formal speech to MPs prior to a press conference followed by a meeting with backbench Conservative MPs.
Monday evening ITV News published images that appear to show Boris Johnson drinking at a party in Downing Street during Covid restrictions.
Yesterday the BBC published testimonies from alleged No 10 “insiders” claiming that drink events were a regular occurrence during Covid restrictions.