The PM told the Commons that the drunken event on Downing Street could be “technically” within the rules

Full text by Boris Johnson

Spokesman, I want to apologize. I know that millions of people in this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months, I know what suffering they have gone through, they have not been able to mourn their relatives, they have not been able to live their lives the way they want or do the things they love. .

And I know the anger he feels with me and the government I lead when he thinks that Downing Street itself is not properly followed by the people who make the rules.

And while I can’t predict the findings of the current investigation, I’ve learned enough to know that there were things we just didn’t deal with properly and I have to take responsibility.

Number 10 is a large department with a garden as an extension to the office, which was constantly used due to the influx of fresh air when the virus stopped, and when I went to that garden on May 20, 2020 just after 6pm to thank the groups of employees before I was 25 minutes later he returned to his office to continue working, I implicitly believed it was a business event.

But Mr. Spokesman, over time, I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found another way to thank them, and I should have realized that even if it were technically possible that they were under the leadership, there would be millions and millions of people who simply wouldn’t see it that way, people who would suffer terribly, people who were forbidden to meet loved ones at all, inside and outside.

And I cordially apologize to them and to this House, and all I am asking is for Sue Gray to be able to complete her investigation that day and several others so that the full facts can be ascertained, and I will, of course, return to this House. and make a statement. “

Boris Johnson was accused of using his Commons statement about the partygate as a way to avoid personal responsibility for today’s drunken event.

The prime minister’s admission that he was at an open-air party in Downing Street Garden in May 2020 was his first confirmation that he attended an event whose existence was revealed last week.

But the 300-word speech at the beginning of the angry prime minister’s questions was formulated very carefully, as legal experts noted.

In particular, two passages could be considered key; Mr Johnson told the House that he “implicitly believed it was a working event.” He also said it could be “technically … under the guidelines” that were in place.

However, Downing Street then declined to state what was based on Boris Johnson’s claim that the May 20, 2020 assembly could “technically” fall within the guidelines.

They claimed that Mr. Johnson had not received or seen an e-mail inviting employees for “socially distant drinks” on May 20, nor had they told Martin Reynolds to send it.

Asked if Mr Johnson had received legal advice on the content of his statement, the prime minister’s press secretary replied: “Of course, I will not deal with how the prime minister works on the statements.

“But it was the prime minister who came to the house to apologize and acknowledge, as he had done before, that he needed to take responsibility and state what he was capable of at the moment.”

Asked what instructions he relied on, his press secretary replied: “It does not prejudge the conclusions of this review, it only states that it is going to this event.

“As he explained in other parts of his statement and answers, he said he implicitly believed it was a business incident.”

When asked why she believed it, she replied: ‘He believed that the events in question were within the rules’ and that was the premise I was working on.

“But other than that, I’m afraid I’ll simply have to say that matters surrounding the nature of the assembly and other similar details are a matter of independent judgment.”

One leading lawyer said the bill would be ‘ridiculed out of court’ in a legal case.

Raj Chada, chief of criminal services at Hodge Jones and Allen, said: “If a client tried to use it, it would be ridiculed by the court.

“A cross-examination would be brutal:“ Do officials / politicians normally wear a bottle to work events?

“I don’t see his defense having any legal basis, because you should have worked from home if you could.”

Adam Wagner, a human rights defender who spent the pandemic interpreting complex coronavirus laws and explaining them to the public on social media, said the prime minister’s statement was “clearly a lawyer” and “very much about his personal responsibility.”

Here we will look at the rules in force at the time and whether they will help Mr Johnson’s case.

Boris Johnson was accused of using his Commons statement about the partygate as a way to avoid personal responsibility for today's drunken event.

Boris Johnson was accused of using his Commons statement about the partygate as a way to avoid personal responsibility for today’s drunken event.

I implicitly believed it was a business event.

After spending a few seconds offering something like a mea culpa to the masses, Mr. Johnon got to his first tough legal point.

He told the House of Commons: “Number 10 is a large department with a garden as an extension of the office, which was constantly used due to the influx of fresh air when the virus stopped and when I went to that garden just after 6pm on May 20, 2020 to thank groups of staff. Until I return to my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I implicitly believed it was a business event. “

Coronavir rules changed a week before the party, as the government warned that it was considering tougher enforcement measures for anyone who violated the rules.

The blocking fines rose to GBP 100 in England on 13 May 2020 and could be imposed on anyone who thinks they are violating restrictions on movement in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak.

While anyone who found a violation of the law had their first fine reduced to £ 50 if they paid it within 14 days, the penalty was doubled for each iteration, up to a maximum of £ 3,200.

Existing legislation known as the Health Protection Regulation (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) 2020 has been updated to reflect the changes.

No more than two people from different households may mix indoors or outdoors.

In addition, people were only allowed to leave home with a “reasonable apology.”

However, there are exceptions for those whose jobs require them to go to work or work in larger groups.

Legislation at the time states that more than two people are allowed to gather in a “public place” where it is “necessary for work purposes”.

The time guidelines add that “workers should try to minimize all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace.”

However, lawyers noted that the garden at Downing Street would not count as a “public place.” Although available to Downing Street staff, it is not open to the general public.

“Reasonable excuses” for leaving home include “traveling to work or providing voluntary or charitable services if it is not reasonably possible for that person to work or provide these services from where he or she lives”. ‘.

It is not clear whether this would affect individuals who traveled “for work”, but decided not to return home immediately afterwards.

‘…Ealthough it could be technically said that it falls within the guidelines … “

In a later statement, Mr Johnson added: “I should have acknowledged that, even if it could be technically forbidden to meet loved ones, inside or outside. ”

In a series of Twitter posts, Mr Wagner said: “Johnson’s apology was carefully worded and clearly defended. He said he attended because ” he implicitly believed it was a work event ” that ” at a distance ” had to send everyone back inside and ” technically ” could be said to fall within the guidelines. …

‘This was just what * he * thought the event was … So the defense is only personal and leaves open the possibility that the event was something else without him realizing it.

“It’s largely about his personal responsibility – he implicitly denies that he knew what the event was, saw the e-mail or had anything to do with it. Because here is the key point: according to the wording of the e-mail (‘bring your own booze’), it could not technically be a business event. ‘

Although Mr Wagner suggested that the Prime Minister could even say that such an event would be considered “reasonably necessary for the job” to thank employees for their hard work during the pandemic, he doubted whether it would “carry” in the light of the guidelines. government in force at the time. discouraging gatherings in the workplace.

He added: “The final point is that if someone asked the Prime Minister or the Minister of Health at the time whether it was legal to hold a social work gathering outside for 100 people with alcohol and food, they would answer very harshly:” No. ”. This is face rescue. “

Mr. Johnson’s former chief aide, who became an enemy of Dominic Cummings, was somewhat more greedy. For the first time last week, he revealed that the event took place on May 20 and that the prime minister attended, despite his warning that it was against the rules.

He wrote on Twitter: “The whole point of why I and another official told MR (Martin Reynolds – prime minister’s personal private secretary) – WTF garden). By no means’ ‘technically within the rules” … bullsh * t, because the alternative (alternative) is to admit that he has broken the rules + resign. ‘

What were the rules and when?

The rise of Covid witnessed the imposition of some of the most severe restrictions on Britain since World War II in early 2020.

They began on March 16, when the public was told to avoid essential journeys and work from home where they could.

Schools were closed four days later for everyone except vulnerable children and those whose parents were key workers and not at home. On the same day, pubs and restaurants were forced to close their doors.

On March 23, working from home became an order and people could only leave for the necessary purchases, medical appointments and a short list of other vital journeys.

From May 10, however, some rules began to be relaxed. Mr Johnson clarified that “anyone who cannot work from home, such as construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.”

“You should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we have to and will keep social distance, and capacity will therefore be limited,” he said.

“So work from home if you can, but if you can’t work from home, you should go to work.”

A few days later, on May 13, the rules were relaxed so that people could leave home for reasons other than exercise. But they were only allowed to meet one other person.

Those were the rules at the time of Downing Street. Social distancing did not come until June 2020.

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