Minister denies pressure on report into Abba party

Minister denies pressure on report into Abba party

A senior minister has disputed claims that Sue Gray was pressured to water down her report into law-breaking parties across Westminster, saying he is absolutely confident that the investigation had been completely independent.

Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland secretary, dismissed suggestions that senior figures in Downing Street pushed for detail about the so-called Abba party in Boris Johnson's flat during the lock-down and staff members names to be stripped out.

The allegations were reported in the Sunday Times, which said Gray was lobbied to alter key passages of her report on the eve of its publication by three people: Simon Case, the prime minister's chief of staff, and Alex Chisholm, the permanent secretary for the Cabinet Office.

The Guardian revealed earlier this week that Tory MPs feared there had been a cover-up over the Abba party, which Gray admitted she did not fully investigate.

Lewis did not explicitly deny that Gray had been pressured into changing her report because he said he was not involved in the inquiry, but he said anyone who has worked in No 10 knew that that kind of thing wouldn't work. Lewis said that this backed up Downing Street denying the story, because the Metropolitan police did not issue any fixed-penalty notices for the event.

Lewis said that the media and the public would trust No 10 after it initially denied Covid rules were broken. "It is a different Downing Street, the chief of staff is different from the team you're talking about, who work with the prime minister, who is responsible for these issues."

Steve Barclay was new and wasn't there at the time of his original mistakes. Johnson will probably have to face more headaches because of his former top adviser Dominic Cummings, who said evidence of crimes in the flat where Johnson lived had been ignored by the Metropolitan Police and Cabinet Office.

Labour said Johnson needed to explain why figures in No 10 interfered in an investigation he claimed was independent and leant on Sue Gray Angela Rayner, the party's deputy leader, said: It s about time the public is told the truth, but this prime minister can no longer be trusted to tell it. Johnson is facing an investigation that could begin next month into whether he misled Parliament by denying for weeks that any Covid rules were broken.

Anneliese Dodds, the Labour party chair, said not enough Conservative MPs had decided yet whether to depose Johnson or put the Partygate scandal behind him.

She said that politics should be clean and that it should be a force for good. We need to have politicians held to high standards.