Boris Johnson has still not received a report by Sue Gray into lockdown parties in Downing Street and across Whitehall despite expectations being raised last night that he would address its findings in the commons this lunchtime.
On Tuesday afternoon, it was understood that Number 10 would publish the report compiled by the senior civil servant around midday today and then the PM would make a statement in the Commons after PMQs.
But it is now believed the document will not be released for publication until later this afternoon at the earliest, with the chances of this being delayed until Thursday growing.
The prime minister has vowed to make a statement and answer questions in the House of Commons after the Gray report has been made public.
Opposition parties had voiced concern on Tuesday that, if published today, they would not be given sufficient time to read the document before any potential statement from the PM later in the day.
But uncertainty has been cast over its publication as Ms Gray’s team hold discussions with the Metropolitan Police after they announced a criminal investigation into allegations of lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street.
Met Police launch criminal investigation into Downing Street parties
Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Mr Johnson said he welcomed the police probe, saying he believed it would “help draw a line under matters”.
The Met wrote to the Cabinet Office formally requesting that it refers all relevant information from its inquiry in relation to the events under investigation to support the force’s work.
Explainer: Who is party investigator Sue Gray?
At this stage there is no estimate for how long its investigation will take, although sources have told Sky News it will take “weeks, not days”.
Sky News understands the Met has not raised an objection to the Cabinet Office inquiry being released before its criminal investigation has concluded.
Labour call for publication of Gray report ‘in full’
Number 10 has so far held back from confirming the report will be published in full, with ministers committing only to releasing the “full findings”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said anything less than a full publication of the report would amount to a “cover-up”.
Downing Street reiterated on Tuesday afternoon that the government wants the report to be published “as soon as possible” and insisted Number 10 is not trying to block its publication.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson told reporters talks are taking place between Ms Gray’s inquiry team and the Metropolitan Police to decide what can be published from her investigation into the ‘partygate’ row.
Ms Gray’s report is likely to provide a factual account of what happened at a number of alleged parties, and may present a judgement on whether the events breached rules in place at the time.
Johnson’s leadership under severe pressure
Mr Johnson’s leadership is under severe pressure amid the ongoing ‘partygate’ scandal and could be put to a vote if more than 54 Conservative MPs submit letters of no confidence to the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs.
It is thought the next few days will be pivotal for the prime minister as he and his officials remain braced for the document’s release.
The Telegraph reported that Mr Johnson spent time meeting with 15 Conservative MPs individually in his office on Tuesday evening as he sought to build support ahead of the Gray report’s publication.
Meanwhile, the discussion among Conservative MPs appears to have already moved beyond questions like who might run for leader, and whether Mr Johnson should stay on.
PM facing growing calls to resign
Earlier this month, the PM issued an apology in the House of Commons for attending an event in the Number 10 garden on 20 May 2020, claiming he thought it was a “work event”, and asked people to wait for Ms Gray to publish her findings.
Opposition parties and some critics on his own backbenches say any evidence he has misled parliament would amount to a breach of the ministerial code and require the prime minister’s resignation.
And yesterday evening, it was understood that Ms Gray had received photographs showing Mr Johnson and others close together with wine bottles when COVID rules were in place as part of her investigation.
It is unknown whether such images will be published in the final report, but two different sources confirm their existence.
Speaking to reporters, Sir Keir said cabinet ministers “need to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why they’re still supporting this PM” following the announcement of a Met police probe into Downing Street parties.
The latest reports of a coronavirus rule break came less than 24 hours after Number 10 admitted the prime minister had a birthday celebration there during the first COVID lockdown in 2020.
The revelation that officials held two parties in Downing Street the day before the Queen sat alone at Prince Philip’s funeral in April last year also provoked fury.
Number 10 later apologised to the Queen and said Mr Johnson was not in Downing Street that day.