Boris Johnson said over 600 days of the pandemic events on just 8 days were found to be in breach of the Covid regulations. The Prime Minister was speaking after the publication of the Sue Gray report into 16 events held in Downing Street and lockdown during the pandemic.
Mr Johnson started his statement in the House of Commons by saying he repeated his apology for the event which he was fined for, and accepted responsibility for all the events that had taken place. He said he ‘briefly attended’ gatherings to thank staff for their contributions during the Covid pandemic.
The Prime Minister has said he takes “full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch”.
Making a statement in the House of Commons on the Sue Gray report, Boris Johnson said: “I want to begin today by renewing my apology to the House, to the whole country, for the short lunchtime gathering on June 19, 2020 in the Cabinet Room, during which I stood at my place at the Cabinet table and for which I received a fixed penalty notice.
“I also want to say above all that I take full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch. Sue Gray’s report has emphasised that it is up to the political leadership in Number 10 to take ultimate responsibility and, of course, I do.”
He said that after he left: “Some of these gatherings then went on far longer than was necessary and they were clearly in breach of the rules and they fell foul of the rules. I had no knowledge of those subsequent proceedings as I simply wasn’t there.”
He said he was surprised, disappointed and appalled by ‘some of the behaviour’. He apologised to security and cleaning staff in Downing street for how they had been treated.
Mr Johnson said he never lied to Parliament, but he said he would like to correct the record to explain why he spoke as he did.
Boris Johnson said staff were working “extremely long hours” and “doing their best” to help the country in the pandemic, adding to MPs: “I appreciate this is no mitigation but it’s important to set out.”
He added: “I’m trying to set out the context, not to mitigate or to absolve myself in any way.
“The exemption under which they were present in Downing Street includes those circumstances where officials and advisers were leaving the Government and it was appropriate to recognise and to thank them for the work they had done.
“I briefly attended such gatherings to thank them for their service, which I believe is one of the essential duties of leadership and particularly important when people need to feel that their contributions have been appreciated and to keep morale as high as possible.”
As he was heckled, the Prime Minister said: “I’m trying to explain the reasons I was there. It’s clear from what Sue Gray had to say that some of these gatherings then went on far longer than was necessary and they were clearly in breach of the rules and they fell foul of the rules.”
Mr Johnson added: “I had no knowledge of the subsequent proceedings as I simply wasn’t there.”
He said new structures are now in place to prevent anything similar happening in future saying: “We are humbled by the experience and have learned our lesson. I am humbled and have learned my lesson.”
He said the people who took part in the events are ‘good’ and ‘hard working’ and said he is proud of them.
He said now the report has been published we should ‘move on’.