MPs for Bedford & Kempston and North East Bedfordshire questioned the Prime Minister in the House of Commons yesterday (Monday) following the publication of a report into illegal gatherings during lockdown at Number 10.
Sue Gray’s highly-anticipated report highlighted 16 separate events that took place in Government buildings that were “difficult to justify” and condemned “failures of leadership and judgment”. 12 of those events are being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.
The report noted that there was “a serious failure to observe … the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government” and that “at times ..there was too little thought given to what was happening across the country in considering the appropriateness of some of these gatherings.”
The Prime Minister made a statement in Parliament to address the report’s findings, followed by questions from MPs across the political spectrum.
Bedford & Kempston MP, Labour’s Mohammad Yasin, said: “Many of my constituents are deeply troubled and angry by the frequent scandals engulfing the PM’s administration.
“Because it’s not just party gate and the ongoing cover-up, but all the other things –
the proroguing of Parliament, the treatment of the Queen, the 3.5 billion of crony
Covid contracts, the writing off £4.3 billion Covid loan fraud and the Russia report to
name but a few.”
He said that Sussex University researchers have warned that Boris Johnson’s administration is more corrupt than any UK government since the Second World War but was quickly cut off by the Prime Minister before he was able to finish his statement to say, “Does the PM realise how damaging this is to Parliament, and our standing in the world?”
The Prime Minister responded by saying the question was “completely ridiculous”
and that he’d “got Brexit done.”
Mr Yasin told the Bedford Independent: “Mr Johnson called my question ridiculous because he had no defence to the allegations I put to him.
“He always reaches for “getting Brexit done” when he has nothing else to say, but even that is wearing thin with many of my constituents who are still waiting for the Brexit promises to materialise.”
Richard Fuller, Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire also addressed a question to the PM.
He said that he had promised his own constituents that he would ask the Prime Minister to commit to supporting the four recommendations in the report, which included:
- That every Government Department has a clear and robust policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace
- Any official access to [the garden], including for meetings, should be by invitation only and in a controlled environment
- There should be easier ways for staff to raise [concerns about behaviour] – whistleblowing – informally outside of the line management chain
- Too much responsibility and expectation is placed on the senior official whose principal function is the direct support of the Prime Minister. This should be addressed as a matter of priority
The Prime Minister responded to Mr Fuller, to say that he accepted the “general findings” of the report and that immediate steps were being taken to implement the changes recommended.
“These recommendations are understandable, and I am pleased that the Prime Minister has accepted them in full,” Mr Fuller told the Bedford Independent.
“I have waited to respond until the senior civil servant had finished her report. I have also said that it was important that the Prime Minister accept the report’s recommendations in full, that he makes changes to the operations of his office and that it be clear that the rules apply to everyone and those police investigations and any subsequent penalties be paid in full.”
Mr Fuller said he was “astounded” that there has not been a clear policy on the consumption of alcohol in the workplace of Downing Street and said: “Like most people, [I] feel let down by the lax standards at the heart of government.”
He said that these issues needed to be resolved quickly so that the PM “demonstrates he is still able to govern effectively.”
Richard Fuller told the Bedford Independent, “Beyond this, there is the personal grief that has been expressed to me by constituents who followed the rules often at great sacrifice to their families and in moments of personal tragedy.
“For some, nothing less than the resignation of the Prime Minister is acceptable: for others it is that he recognises fully the hurt that the actions at Number 10 have caused.
“I believe the Prime Minister does understand the hurt that has been caused and that, as he said today, he accepts the need for significant change. This must now be done. I believe it is right that he is given the opportunity to implement those changes and to continue to lead the country.”
Mr Yasin said: “If this failure of leadership was a one-off, the public may feel more inclined to forgive him, but it’s not and that’s the point I wanted to get across in my question.
“There is increasing evidence of corruption in his government and contempt for the public, as I referred to in my question.”