Cabinet secretary Simon Case has promised MPs will get further details on the disciplinary measures meted out to staff involved in rule-breaking Partygate events before the end of this year.
The pledge came in a just-published letter to William Wragg, chair of parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and followed a gruelling evidence session Case was subjected to over the summer.
At the June hearing, the cabinet secretary said some of the behaviour reported in Cabinet Office second perm sec Sue Gray’s report on the restriction-flouting events in government buildings was “horrifying”.
By that time a Metropolitan Police investigation into the get-togethers had concluded– with 126 fixed-penalty notices being issued to a total of 83 individuals – among them then-prime minister Boris Johnson and then-chancellor Rishi Sunak, as well as some senior civil servants.
Case told PACAC members that disciplinary processes were under way and were expected to be finished within “weeks”.
In his latest update – a letter written around one month after the hearing but only published on 7 September – Case said individual departments were responsible for sanctions that may be taken against their own staff.
But he said the Cabinet Office was playing a “coordinating” role.
“Whilst we do not comment on individual cases, we do understand the committee’s interest in the process and the Cabinet Office will report back further in the autumn,” he wrote.
Fixed-penalty notices are not criminal convictions, and staff do not have to disclose they have been issued with them – meaning some officials may be able to escape sanction even though they have been identified by the police as contravening Covid restrictions.
However, Case noted that he was referring specifically to Sue Gray’s full report on Partygate rather than the Met investigation Gray's report sparked.
At the June hearing the cab sec acknowledged that “mistakes were made” in relation to the gatherings.
“Boundaries weren’t observed. Some of the conduct that is described in Sue Gray’s report is horrifying in any setting,” he said. “I think that people have let themselves down. People have apologised.
“I’ve worked in and around Downing Street for a good deal of the last 15 years. I have always been very proud to work in this organisation. And I still remain deeply proud.
“Some of the people who were caught up in these events are those same people who worked unbelievably hard in the national interest during the pandemic.”
Case was originally tasked with investigating multiple reports of restriction-breaking gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall in late 2020 and early 2021.
However, he had to recuse himself from the work when it emerged that one of the events had taken place in the Cabinet Office.