Boris has released a statement following the publication of the Privileges Committee’s Partygate dossier, speaking publicly for the first time since Sue Gray was appointed Starmer’s Chief of Staff. He points out the Committee “made reference on no fewer than 26 occasions” to Sue Gray in their report, which given her new role, is “concerning” to say the very least. He adds he’ll “leave it to others to decide how much confidence” should be placed in her investigation…
‘I am grateful to the committee for their work over the last ten months. I believe that their labours have helped establish the obvious truth: It is clear from this report that I have not committed any contempt of parliament. It is also clear that what I have been saying about this matter from the beginning has been vindicated. That is because there is no evidence in the report that I knowingly or recklessly misled parliament, or that I failed to update parliament in a timely manner.
‘Nor is there any evidence in the report that I was aware that any events taking place in No 10 or the Cabinet Office were in breach of the rules or the guidance. Like any Prime Minister I relied upon advice from officials. There is no evidence that I was at any stage advised by anyone, whether a civil servant or a political adviser, that an event would be against the rules or the guidance before it went ahead. There is no evidence that I was later advised that any such event was contrary to requirements.
‘So, when I told the House that the rules and the guidance had been followed, that was my honest belief. Over the last year the Committee has had access to a colossal quantity of testimony. They have had many months to analyse all this internal documentation, including countless emails and WhatsApps, which come from sources friendly to me or otherwise. If I had known about a matter of such importance, and with such potential to undermine our national struggle against covid as a breach of the rules or guidance in No 10 I would unquestionably have raised it with my close team. Moreover, they would have unquestionably raised it with me.
‘No such concerns were raised on either side and all my statements to the House of Commons were based on that understanding and advice. I note that the Committee has emphasised their wish to be fair. They have made reference on no fewer than 26 occasions to a personage they bashfully describe as “the Second Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office.”
‘That is of course, Sue Gray. So it is surreal to discover that the Committee proposes to rely on evidence culled and orchestrated by Sue Gray, who has just been appointed Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Labour Party. This is particularly concerning given that the Committee says it is proposing to rely on ‘the findings in the Second Permanent Secretary’s report’ as ‘relevant facts which the Committee will take into account. I leave it to others to decide how much confidence may now be placed in her inquiry and in the reports that she produced.
‘I remain very grateful to all the hardworking advisers and officials who did everything they could to help manage the Covid-19 pandemic.’
He’s up in front of the Committee on the week beginning 20 March…