At least 31 people were fined for attending birthday parties in Wales during lockdown
At least 31 people in Wales were fined for attending birthday parties in Wales during lockdown, research by Nation.Cymru has found amid the investigations into Downing Street parties which include reports of a gathering for the Prime Minister’s birthday.
A review of announcements by Welsh police forces found reports of five birthday gatherings being shut down by South Wales Police last year, with between three and seven people receiving fixed penalty notices on each occasion.
They included a 60th birthday party in Barry where seven people were fined, and fines for three people from different households travelling together in a van who had “got together to celebrate a birthday”.
Meanwhile in Gwent, police handed out six fines and made one arrest while attending a birthday party attended by key workers in Caerphilly. Gwent Police also reported attending a “youths birthday party” two weeks after the celebration for Boris Johnson.
The force’s chief superintendent, Mark Hobrough, said last year: “Organising parties and gatherings is dangerous, selfish and is totally unacceptable in light of the current threat we face.”
In the north of Wales, police broke up a birthday party of 16 people in Rhyl last February, warning it could have had “disastrous consequences”.
Police were also called to break up a 40th birthday party at the home of the Conservative MP, Rob Roberts, on a bank holiday Monday in 2020. Two people were asked to leave but no fines were issued.
Our findings come after a UK government minister said Boris Johnson had been “ambushed with a cake” by his staff on his birthday on June 19, 2020. The Prime Minister’s spokesperson has said staff “gathered briefly” to wish Johnson a happy birthday and that “he was there for less than 10 minutes.”
It is one of 15 parties said to have taken place at Downing Street or other UK government offices which have so far come to light, with the Prime Minister allegedly present at seven of the events.
Sue Gray’s investigation into potential breaches of Covid regulations is set to be published in the coming days, albeit without elements related to events now under investigation by the Metropolitan police.
Other events that could be included in Sue Gray’s report included a gathering of more than 100 staff in the garden of Number 10 Downing Street on May 20, 2020. Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary had invited staff with an email asking them to “bring their own booze.”
On the same day in Wales, the First Minister announced he was increasing fines for people who repeatedly breach Covid regulations. It came five days after police had attended the home of Rob Roberts MP.
The Prime Minister’s former advisor Dominic Cummings also alleges that a “flat party” was held at 10 Downing Street on November 13, 2020. On the same day, South Wales Police fined seven people in Maesteg for holding a “house party” and announced it had given fixed penalty notices to 52 people over parties at Cardiff Metropolitan University halls of residence.
A month later, on December 11, South Wales Police handed fines to 10 people over a house party in Barry, which coincided with the delivery of a wine chiller with space for 34 bottles which was reportedly used for gatherings of Downing Street staff known as “wine time Fridays.”
On December 18, Downing Street staff reportedly enjoyed cheese and wine at a Downing Street party which the Prime Minister did not attend but which led to the resignation of his spokesperson Allegra Stratton after she was filmed being asked about it at a mock press conference.
On the same evening, three women were fined for gathering a house in Swansea, while four people were fined over a house party in Cardiff. A day later, Wales moved to tier four restrictions which meant only two households could mix on Christmas day.
Although Welsh Covid measures weren’t set by Downing Street, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said that the scandal over the parties means the Prime Minister no longer has the “moral authority” to lead the UK.
“That’s what all this exposes for me. You cannot be someone who asks other people to do things – difficult, upsetting things – that you are so patently unwilling to do yourself,” he told BBC Radio 4 earlier this week.
Welsh Conservative MP Stephen Crabb told a constituent that he felt “extremely disappointed and genuinely let-down” by the reports of “blatant breaches” of Covid regulations.
But he also this week played down reports of a birthday party, telling the BBC that staff had “gathered briefly” to “wish the prime minister a happy birthday” and saying: “Now is a terrible, terrible time to think about a leadership election when you’ve got 127,00 Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.”
The Prime Minister told the Commons this week that he “cannot comment” on ongoing investigations and said he is “focused on is delivering the fastest recovery from covid of any European economy”.
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