The latest Plymouth news and national headlines for Wednesday April 13 as Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak face calls to quit
Prime Minister and Chancellor apologize for breaking Covid birthday party rules
The Prime Minister and Chancellor have both paid fines and apologized for attending Boris Johnson’s birthday party in Downing Street during Covid restrictions.
Mr Johnson said it “didn’t occur to him” that the gathering in the Cabinet Room on June 19, 2020 to mark his 56th birthday was a breach of coronavirus rules, but that he ” now humbly accepts” that he broke the laws of Covid-19.
Mr Sunak, meanwhile, said: “I deeply regret the frustration and anger caused and I am sorry.”
Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife, was also fined and paid.
Scotland Yard, according to a statement by No 10, said Mr Johnson had been fined because “on 19th June 2020 in the Cabinet Room…between 2.00 and 3.00 p.m.” he had participated in “a gathering of two or more people inside”, which was prohibited at the time.
The Prime Minister, speaking to Checkers broadcasters, said he ‘fully respects’ the outcome of the police investigation and accepts ‘in all sincerity that people have a right to expect better’ from his go.
Mr Sunak, whose fine relates to the same event, said: ‘I understand that for figures in public office, the rules need to be strictly enforced in order to maintain public confidence. I respect the decision that was made and I paid the fine.
Describing the busy nature of the day the fine was linked to, Mr Johnson said he chaired eight meetings at No 10 and followed them with a four-hour round trip to a school in Hemel Hempstead , Hertfordshire.
He said: “There was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2 p.m. which lasted less than 10 minutes, during which the people I work with kindly sent their well wishes.
“And I have to say in all honesty at the time that it didn’t occur to me that it could have been a breach of the rules.”
He added: “I now humbly accept that I was.
“But I think the best thing I can do now is, after paying the fine, to focus on the job at hand. That’s what I’m going to do.”
When asked if he thought he would face any further fines, he said the media would be among the first to know.
Scotland Yard on Tuesday announced a new tranche of Fixed Fines (FPNs) in relation to Operation Hillman, which is investigating possible Covid breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall, with more than 50 fines referred to the Acro Criminal Records Office since the start of the investigation.
Number 10 went on to confirm that the Prime Minister and Chancellor were among those fined.
A spokeswoman for Ms Johnson also announced that she too had been fined.
The FPNs received by Mr and Mrs Johnson and Mr Sunak related to the June 2020 birthday party at which, according to Northern Ireland Minister Conor Burns, Mr Johnson was ‘ambushed with a cake “.
Reports suggested that up to 30 people attended the party and sang Happy Birthday in the Cabinet Room.
In a statement on Tuesday evening, Mr Sunak confirmed that he had paid his fine.
“I apologize unreservedly,” he said.
“I understand that for public service figures, the rules must be applied rigorously in order to maintain public confidence. I respect the decision that was made and I paid the fine.
“I know people have sacrificed a lot during Covid, and they will find this upsetting. I deeply regret the frustration and anger caused and I’m sorry.
A spokesman for Ms Johnson said the former Tory communications director had also paid her fine, which would have been £50 if paid within 14 days.
“While she believed she was acting within the rules at the time, Ms Johnson accepts the findings of the Metropolitan Police and apologizes unreservedly,” her spokeswoman said.
The Prime Minister faced fresh calls to resign following No 10’s announcement that he had been slapped with a sanction for breaking coronavirus laws.
However, he dodged questions about whether he would quit, instead insisting he wanted to continue the job, which was echoed by Mr Sunak.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, said the police decision marked the “first time in the history of our country that a Prime Minister has been found guilty of breaking the law”.
Speaking in Preston, he accused Mr Johnson of lying ‘repeatedly’ about what happened behind No 10’s famous black door.
Sir Keir also argued that the Tory leader and Mr Sunak had ‘disgraced’ the sacrifices made by Britons who followed the rules during the pandemic.
“The British public made the most unimaginable and heartbreaking sacrifices, and many were overwhelmed with guilt,” he said.
“But the culprits are the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.
“Britain deserves better, they have to go.”
Labor joined the chorus of demands for the Commons to be recalled from its two-week Easter recess and allow Mr Johnson to ‘hand in his resignation’ in person to MPs.
Push for a recall has also been made by the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, while Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been among those demanding the Prime Minister’s departure.