Boris Johnson has announced a major shake-up of the way Downing Street is run following Sue Gray’s report into the partygate affair.
The prime minister said he was “sorry for the things we simply didn’t get right and also sorry for the way that this matter has been handled”.
In her report, Gray blamed “failures of leadership and judgment” in No.10 and the Cabinet Office for the scandal.
She also revealed that the Metropolitan Police are investigating 12 alleged parties in Number 10 and Whitehall — including at least three attended by the PM himself.
In a statement to MPs in the Commons, Johnson said he accepted Gray’s “general findings in full” and “above all her recommendation that we must learn from these events and act now”.
A new office of the prime minister will be created with a new permanent secretary to lead No.10 to simplify the chain of command, Johnson said, as well as a review of the code of conduct for the civil service and special advisers.
Johnson faced “resign” from Opposition MPs as he told the Commons: “We asked people across this country to make the most extraordinary sacrifices – not to meet loved ones, not to visit relatives before they died, and I understand the anger that people feel.
“But it isn’t enough to say sorry. This is a moment when we must look at ourselves in the mirror and we must learn.”
The Chamber erupted in anger while Johnson gave his statement, with a number of MPs accusing the PM of “inadvertently” misleading the House over his previous assertions that no covid rules had been broken in No.10.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was forced to leave the Chamber after he was repeatedly asked by Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle to withdraw the word “misled”.
In her eagerly-awaited update, Gray admitted she was “extremely limited” in what she could say about the events that are currently being investigated by the Met, adding: “It is not possible at present to provide a meaningful report setting out and analysing the extensive factual information I have been able to gather.”
There were repeated calls from MPs across the House for the government to publish Gray’s report in full once the police had concluded its investigations — something Johnson repeatedly failed to commit to.
Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper urged Johnson to publish the report in full, but was told to wait for the police to conclude their inquiries — a response that earned cries of derision from MPs.
Following the report, Labour leader Keir Starmer said the public believed Johnson should “do the decent thing and resign” but he is “a man without shame”.
He said that while Gray’s report had not been published in full, it was already clear that what she had disclosed was “the most damning conclusion possible”.
“By routinely breaking the rules he set, the prime minister took us all for fools, he held people’s sacrifice in contempt, he showed himself unfit for office,” he said.
He added: “He gleefully treats what should be a mark of shame as a welcome shield.
“But prime minister, the British public aren’t fools, they never believed a word of it, they think the prime minister should do the decent thing and resign.”
Johnson not only faced criticism from his opponents but from his own side, including from his predecessor Theresa May, who said the public had a right to expect him to have “read the rules”, “understand the meaning” of the rules and “set an example in following those rules”.
Meanwhile, former Tory cabinet minister and chief whip Andrew Mitchell said Johnson no longer had his support.
“I am deeply concerned by these events and very concerned indeed by some of the things he has said from that despatch box and has said to the British public and our constituents,” he said.
“When he kindly invited me to see him 10 days ago, I told him that I thought he should think very carefully about what was now in the best interests of our country and of the Conservative Party, and I have to tell him he no longer enjoys my support.”