The prime minister’s official spokesperson has said No 10 officials initiated the meeting between the PM and Sue Gray last week.
Earlier today chief secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke, suggested that Gray “instigated” the meeting, and several media organisations were briefed that this was the case.
A No 10 spokesman told this afternoon’s lobby briefing that the meeting itself was “not at the request of the prime minister”, but that: “it was suggested [by No 10 officials] it may be helpful to have that meeting. Obviously Sue Gray is independent, it is up to her whether she proceeds with any meetings with regards to her investigation.”
When pressed on who had suggested the meeting would be helpful, they answered: “Yes, No 10 officials.”
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Downing Street also said today that it is yet to receive Gray’s full report.
The spokesman said that the meeting “was minuted in the normal way.”
However they rejected suggestions the notes ought to be publicly released, stating: “It was a private meeting, we wouldn’t publish details of a private meeting.”
This morning the Liberal Democrats tabled a motion urging the PM to reveal the meeting’s minutes.
Quizzed over whether the meeting suggested the “partygate” investigation process was not an independent one, No 10 stressed: “I point you to the coverage of the interim report which certainly didn’t suggest a lack of independence.
“And I think it is then for the public to judge following the conclusion and publication of the report itself.”
The spokesperson said the PM and Gray discussed the “timings and publication process” of the report.
On why a specific meeting was required, they added: “There were reports, public reports, that the Hillman investigation might be coming to a conclusion, so it was discussed that it might be useful to give an overview of what Sue Gray and her team were planning in regards to publication and timings – the publication following the conclusion of the report. I think those discussions had taken place at official level already.”
“As you would expect for reports like this, it is understandable that there would be a need to share information on things like timings and publication process because obviously there is a process for No 10 and the prime minister that would flow off the back of Sue Gray completing her report. So that then helps with our planning purposes and things like that,” they went on.
Earlier today Johnson’s ex chief adviser Dominic Cummings claimed photographs of lockdown gatherings will emerge that prove the prime minister “obviously lied to the Commons”.
Last week the Metropolitan Police announced the completion of its investigation into the “partygate” scandal.
126 fixed penalty notices were issued for breaches of Covid-19 regulations across Whitehall and Downing Street.
Back in April, prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak were issued fines over a 2020 birthday gathering in the Cabinet Room.
Johnson’s spokesperson said the full Sue Gray report is to be published “as received”, and that Johnson will not speak on the matter until it is published.
With regards to 500+ photos and CCTV evidence submitted to the top civil servant’s probe, No 10 has said: “It will be a matter for Sue Gray what information she includes in her report.