Boris Johnson has paid his fixed penalty notice and has offered a ‘fulsome apology’ after he was fined for attending a ‘surprise birthday party’ at Downing Street as the country faced tight coronavirus restrictions. In a statement to the nation today, the PM addressed the gathering and said he ‘understands the anger’ people are feeling.
The Prime Minister and Rishi Sunak are among those fined by the Met Police as part of its investigation into Downing Street parties held during lockdown. A No 10 spokeswoman said earlier today: “The Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have today received notification that the Metropolitan police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices.”
It comes after police investigating allegations of lockdown parties held in Downing Street and Whitehall said they have now made more than 50 referrals for fines. At least 30 more fixed penalty notices will be issued by the ACRO Criminal Records Office, the Metropolitan Police said in its latest update on Operation Hillman, which is looking into breaches of Covid-19 regulations.
No 10 confirms PM’s fine is in relation to party inside Cabinet room on 19th June 2020 at the Cabinet Room. Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, have both also been fined, but it has not been confirmed why.
Boris Johnson today issued a video statement to the nation, directly addressing his fixed penalty notice. The birthday party was reportedly a surprise do for the Prime Minister, organised by his wife and for which the Chancellor was also in the room.
Here’s what he said:
“Today I’ve received a fixed penalty notice from the Metropolitan police relating to a Downing Street Event on 19 June 2020. Let me say immediately, I have paid the fine and want to offer a fulsome apology.
“There was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2pm lasting less than 10 minutes during which people I worked with passed on their good wishes. In that time it did not occur to me this might have been a breach of the rules.
“The police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation. I understand the anger people will feel.
“I accept in all sincerity that people had the right to expect better.” He went on to say he now feels a sense of duty “to deliver on the priorities of the British people. Ensuring Putin fails in Ukraine and easing the burden on families caused by higher energy prices”.
“I will take forward that task with due humility.” Asked if he would quit over the fine, he added: “I want to be able to get on with the mandate that I have and to tackle the problems in the country. My job is to get on and deliver for the people of this country and that is what I am going to do.
“I take full responsibility for everything but don’t forget Downing Street is 15,000 square feet and has hundreds and hundreds of officials. I couldn’t be everywhere at once. But clearly, once it became obvious what had been happening and the types of behaviour that unfortunately and sadly we had seen, we have taken steps to change things.
“Downing Street has been radically transformed, it’s a very different organisation and we are focusing one hundred per cent on delivering our agenda.”
When asked about repeatedly lying to the nation about rules being followed at all times behind the doors of Number 10, Boris added: “When I said that, spoke in completely good faith. At the time that I was standing up in the cabinet room where I work every day it didn’t occur to me that I was in breach of the rules. I now humbly accept that I was. The best thing I can do having settled the fine is focus on the job in hand.”
Scotland Yard said on Tuesday that it had made at least 50 referrals for fixed-penalty notices – up from 20 at the end of March – to ACRO Criminal Records Office, which is responsible for issuing the fines, as part of Operation Hillman. Mr Johnson is understood to have been present at six of at least 12 events being investigated, with the Met Police not ruling out issuing further punishments as the inquiry continues.
The Met has opted not to name individuals who have been fined as part of its probe into lockdown breaches in No 10 and Whitehall. But, following the announcement about another 30-plus fines being referred, No 10 confirmed that Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak were among those to be included in the latest tranche of FPNs.