Civil service chiefs have urged officials to remain “fully focused” on delivering public services following the publication of Sue Gray’s report into Covid rule-breaking parties in No.10 and Whitehall.
In a memo to staff this afternoon, cabinet secretary Simon Case – who was named in Gray’s report – and civil service chief operating officer Alex Chisholm quoted Boris Johnson saying he had taken “full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch”.
The PM told the House of Commons this afternoon that he wanted to “move on and focus on the priorities of the British people” as well as learning lessons from Gray’s investigation, the two officials noted.
Case and Chisholm wrote: “We must now take the time to reflect on the report in full and consider the issues it has highlighted. We have taken responsibility for addressing the issues raised in Sue’s report.”
The email, seen by CSW, pointed to “significant changes” in No.10 that have been made since the publication of Gray’s interim report in January – which said “fragmented and complicated” leadership structures had “sometimes led to the blurring of lines of accountability”. They also said steps had been taken to “strengthen the corporate leadership across the Cabinet Office and No.10”.
“We are committed to embedding these changes and ensuring that they are fully implemented,” they added.
The email did not directly mention last week's revelation that No.10 has taken on some Cabinet Office functions, including responsibility for domestic and national security policy.
They also noted that the PM had praised the work of the civil service, particularly during the pandemic. Johnson said he believed civil servants and special advisers, “some of whom are the very people who have received fines” for attending rule-breaking events, are “good, hard-working people, motivated by the highest calling to do the very best for our country”.
Echoing Boris Johnson’s comments, the top officials said: “Thousands of civil servants are working tirelessly across a wide range of critical challenges, including post-Covid backlogs, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, cost of living pressures and the drive for increased economic growth.”
“We want to thank you all for your dedication and commitment,” they added.
“We must remain fully focused on serving the government and the people of the United Kingdom.”