UK ministers dismissed accusations that Boris Johnson misled parliament over what he knew about Downing Street parties held in breach of coronavirus rules, saying he was given the “wrong information” about the gatherings.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Brexit opportunities minister, defended Johnson on Monday after it emerged that fines had been issued to Downing Street staff for a party held at Number 10 the night before Queen Elizabeth sat alone during the funeral of her husband, Prince Philip, in compliance with the coronavirus restrictions in place at the time.
Whitehall officials confirmed that fixed-penalty notices had been received by some of those who attended the party on April 16 2021.
The Metropolitan Police is investigating at least 12 gatherings that took place in Whitehall in 2020 and 2021 when Covid-19 curbs were in force in England, including several at 10 Downing Street.
An initial 20 fixed-penalty notices were issued last week for breaches of Covid regulations, but the police said they would not name those who had received them.
Johnson last year said of the gatherings that “the [Covid] guidelines were followed at all times”, but the Metropolitan police has concluded that breaches of regulations had been made in the “partygate” scandal.
Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader, has accused Johnson of misleading the Commons. Speaking last week, he said the prime minister had breached the ministerial code, which says that government members who mislead the Commons should resign.
But Rees-Mogg told LBC radio on Monday that “the fact that the prime minister was given wrong information doesn’t mean he misled people”.
“The prime minister said he was told the rules were followed but that turns out not to be correct. If the prime minister is told information that is incorrect and passes that information on he has made no deliberate attempt to mislead anybody,” he said.
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