Welsh Secretary says Prime Minister shouldn’t step down even if he receives multiple Partygate fines
Welsh Secretary Simon Hart says he doesn’t think the Prime Minister should resign even if he receives multiple fines as a result of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Hillman probe into a series of parties that were held in Downing Street during the Covid lockdown.
Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak were all issued with fines on Tuesday relating to a gathering in the Cabinet Room on 19 June 2020 to mark Mr Johnson’s 56th birthday.
Multiple newspapers have carried reports suggesting the Prime Minister could receive further fixed penalty notices.
Downing Street sources said they were awaiting the outcome of the ongoing Scotland Yard inquiry after Mr Johnson conceded more fines could follow, having reportedly attended six of the 12 events under investigation.
Mr Hart told Times Radio: “I don’t necessarily see the difference between one or two (fines), for example, the principle is the same.
“I personally don’t think that for people in public life – or any other walk of life, for that matter – that should necessarily be accompanied by another penalty, which is the removal of your job or similar.”
Mr Hart also denied that Mr Johnson had deliberately mislead people with his initial denials that he had attended any parties during lockdown.
He told Sky News: “I know it always makes everybody frustrated. There is a difference between misleading and deliberately misleading.
“We heard all of that with Tony Blair and the Iraq War, if you remember, weapons of mass destruction? And the suggestion was at the time that he had misled Parliament.
“That was the suggestion and the argument was all around whether it was deliberate or whether it was accidental.”
When pressed on the fact the Prime Minister is overseeing 50 breaches of the law being broken, Mr Hart said: “I don’t know where you got 50 from.”
Sky News presenter Kay Burley explained: “Because 50 notices have already been issued. So, 50 times somebody has broken the law in Downing Street.”
Mr Hart replied: “You know more about this than me”, adding: “We can’t speculate about an inquiry which is incomplete.”
Mr Hart had also said earlier he did not want to see a “long, noisy leadership” process “at a critical time as far as our engagement in Ukraine is concerned”.
“For me it doesn’t seem to be in the public interest.”
“The PM bitterly regretted this. Nobody is more frustrated than he for the mistakes which were made nearly two years ago.”
More than 50 fines have been referred to the Acro Criminal Records Office since the Met’s inquiry started.
Speaking to broadcasters at his country residence, Chequers, on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said it “did not occur” to him at the time that the party for which he was fined might be breaching Covid rules.
Mr Sunak offered an “unreserved apology”, saying he understood that “for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence”.
A spokesperson for Mrs Johnson said: “Whilst she believed that she was acting in accordance with the rules at the time, Mrs Johnson accepts the Metropolitan Police’s findings and apologises unreservedly.”
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