By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 04 April 2022 • 8:23
Fines issued over gathering on eve of Prince Philip's funeral
The gathering on 16 April 2021 was a leaving party for the former No 10 director of communications James Slack, an event that was not attended by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
According to the BBC who have seen the content of the emails, Johnson has yet to receive a fine. Those that have been fined have apparently received an email that says the police believe there are reasonable grounds that an offence was committed in contravention of Covid regulations.
Johnson’s then director of communications James Slack has apologised, as has Johnson although he did not attend. However critics have been quick to contrast the behaviour of No 10 staff with pictures of the Queen sitting alone at her husband’s funeral, held under Covid restrictions.
A report in the Daily Telegraph claims the former director of ethics in the cabinet office, Helen MacNamara, has also been fined in connection with a leaving party the year before. This time in June 2020.
Ms MacNamara has declined to comment.
The police fines follow an investigation after an inquiry was undertaken by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who found “failures of leadership and judgement” over the gatherings, between May 2020 and April 2021.
Legally enforceable rules were imposed during the lockdowns by the government, including restrictions on social gatherings, to stop Covid from spreading. Staff in Whitehall and Number 10 however are known to have broken those rules on at least 12 occasions.
Of the 16 gatherings listed by Ms Gray only 12 are being investigated by the police.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for senior people who have been fined to be named, as has Conservative MP Steve Brine who told the BBC there should be more transparency in the fines process.
He said it otherwise risked becoming a distraction from upcoming local elections, telling Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: “They should just be honest about who’s been tipped off with what and put it all out there and say, you know what, we got this wrong, or this person’s got this fine.”
With fines issued over the gathering at Number 10 on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, the news will be of little comfort to the queen and others who obeyed the rules at great personal cost to themselves.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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