17/12/2020 11:07 GMT

Tory MP Says 'Christmas Party' At Private Members' Club Was 'Business Meeting'

Former minister Tobias Ellwood denies he breached any Covid rules by attending the event on the eve of London moving into tier 3.

Peter Nicholls / Reuters
Tory MP Tobias Ellwood 

Senior Tory MP Tobias Ellwood was among 27 people at a “Christmas party” held at a private members’ club amid tough Covid lockdown restrictions. 

The former defence minister claims the event, at the Cavalry and Guards Club in London’s Piccadilly on Tuesday, was a “business dinner” and therefore exempt from the tier 2 restrictions the capital was under at the time.

According to the Mail Online, Ellwood gave a speech at the gathering, organised by the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC), and insists he was “introduced to business people” and that “it was a proper business function”. 

Under tier 2 restrictions, the mixing of households indoors is banned. 

Pubs can only serve alcohol with a substantial meal and people should work from home where possible. 

Business meetings of up to 30 people, where there is no alternative, are allowed.

According to reports, around 27 people were at the event and the IBBC removed an original description of the gathering as Christmas party when approached by reporters. 

London was moved into the toughest local lockdown, tier 3, on Wednesday after a massive spike in infections prompted Boris Johnson to act sooner than the scheduled tiers review on Thursday. 

Ellwood said in a statement to the Mail: “I would not be attending a Christmas party, it was a business meeting.

“I went there to meet business people and that is what it was. The club went to extreme lengths so that as a business function it was absolutely Covid-compliant.” 

He reportedly admitted 27 people were at the event but said “they all followed the guidance”.

“It is absolutely right that everybody should follow the rules. The club confirm that the rules were not broken,” he said. 

He denied that there were Christmas crackers and that turkey was served, adding: “There was a proper formal address and then I was introduced to business people. It was a proper business function.’

Ellwood’s latest words in the Commons, on Monday, warned health secretary Matt Hancock that the five-day. relaxation of rules at Christmas could lead to a third wave of the virus. 

He said: “While 2020 has been the most testing of years, 2021 should be different because of the vaccine.

“My concern is that letting down our guard for five days during Christmas could be very dangerous indeed. Will the secretary of state review those conditions, which were put together some time ago, and come back to the House to present an updated version so that we do not begin the new year with a third wave.” 

He also called for the area covering his own constituency of Bournemouth East to be moved into tier 1, which means the least restrictions possible during the pandemic. 

“The stats support this, and the hospitality industry would be most grateful,” he said.