The Met Police has confirmed the force will not investigate the spate of alleged rule-breaking Whitehall parties unless a Cabinet Office inquiry identifies evidence of potentially criminal behaviour.
It comes a day after Boris Johnson admitted attending a “bring your own booze” gathering in the garden of No 10 during England’s first lockdown – although he insisted he believed it had been a “work event”.
On Thursday, Scotland Yard indicated it will wait to see if Sue Gray’s probe finds wrongdoing before launching any investigation into the parties across SW1.
A Scotland Yard statement said: “The Met has ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office in relation to this inquiry.
“If the inquiry identifies evidence of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence it will be passed to the Met for further consideration.”
Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey tweeted: “I’m stunned that (Met commissioner) Cressida Dick agrees with Boris Johnson that it really is one rule for him and another rule for everyone else. This country deserves so much better than an establishment stitch up.”
Home secretary Priti Patel said it was “absolutely right” for the Met to wait for Sue Gray’s investigation to report back before considering launching their own probe.
She told broadcasters: “There’s an ongoing investigation, that investigation needs to conclude, and then obviously other actions could be taken post that investigation, but we can’t pre-empt things right now. We really can’t.”
Senior civil servant Gray is examining a series of parties and gatherings held in No 10 and Whitehall in 2020 while coronavirus restrictions were in force.
The prime minister apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden in May 2020, during the first coronavirus lockdown, but insisted he believed it was a work event and could “technically” have been within the rules.
Members of the government urged critics of the prime minister to wait for the findings of an official investigation into alleged lockdown-busting parties before passing judgment after Tory MPs began publicly calling for him to quit.
The prime minister pulled out of a planned visit to a vaccination centre in Lancashire on Thursday, where he would have faced questions from the media about his actions, because a family member tested positive for coronavirus.