By Claire Gordon • 18 December 2021 • 7:49
Simon Case, the UK’s top civil servant, has stepped aside from his role leading an inquiry into the Downing Street parties that broke Covid-19 rules after it was revealed an event occurred in his own office. Case had been due to hand in his No10 party probe shortly but his suitability has been cast in doubt amid the new reports. Downing Street has said the investigation will be completed by senior civil servant Sue Gray.
A spokesperson has said: “To ensure the ongoing investigation retains public confidence the cabinet secretary [Simon Case] has recused himself for the remainder of the process”. They said Ms Gray would “ascertain the facts and present her findings to the prime minister”. Sue Gray is the second permanent secretary at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
The BBC reports that invites to a quiz went sent out with the title “Christmas Party!”
The event was for members of Mr Case’s private office and about 15 people were invited, but not everyone made it. Responding to the claims, a government spokesperson said: “Staff in the cabinet secretary’s private office took part in a virtual quiz on 17 December 2020.
“A small number of them, who had been working in the office throughout the pandemic and on duty that day, took part from their desks, while the rest of the team were virtual.
“The cabinet secretary played no part in the event but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own office.
“No outside guests or other staff were invited or present. This lasted for an hour and drinks and snacks were bought by those attending. He also spoke briefly to staff in the office before leaving.”
The party was first reported on the Guido Fawkes website on Friday afternoon. Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said she was “incredibly disappointed” Mr Case “didn’t come clean” when he was first tasked with the No10 party probe – and that his replacement Ms Gray has an “incredible responsibility to restore trust”.
Ms Rayner said the issue of departmental parties now appeared to be “endemic” but that it was the prime minister who “set the tone” for the government and had “allowed it to happen under his watch”.
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