Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Rishi Sunak

‎”No, I did not attend any parties”

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, House of Commons

Facts

When questioned by Labour MP Karl Turner, who asked him to “categorically deny” that he or any of his officials or special advisors were in attendance at Christmas parties in Downing Street in December 2020, Rishi Sunak stated “No Mr Speaker, I did not attend any parties.”

Four months later, in April 2022, Mr Sunak paid a fixed penalty notice for attending Boris Johnson’s birthday “gathering” at 10 Downing Street. 

According to the civil servant Sue Gray, in her report into Party Gate, Mr Sunak received his Fixed Penalty Notice for attending what she called a “gathering” to celebrate Boris Johnson’s birthday, She described the event as follows:

 “On 19 June 2020 a number of individuals gathered in the Cabinet Room in No 10 Downing Street to wish the Prime Minister a happy birthday. Food, alcohol and soft drinks were provided, having been organised in advance that morning. The event lasted around 20-30 minutes.” 

Sue Gray referred to this event in her report as a “gathering.” In ordinary speech, she was describing a birthday party. 

Verdict

Mr Sunak misled the House of Commons when he told MPs that he “did not attend any parties”. He was fined for attending a party, or “gathering” as the civil servant Sue Gray described it. In the Prime Minister’s defence, he did not stay very long and the event may not have struck him as especially significant. It would therefore be unfair to jump to the conclusion he was deliberately misleading MPs. The Sue Gray report made it clear, however, that he did attend what any reasonable person would regard as a small party. In the light of that, and the fact that he later received a fixed penalty notice, Mr Sunak should certainly have returned to the Commons to correct the record. 

Rishi Sunak, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, was misleading the House of Commons. According to the Ministerial Code, “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.  Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” 

We emailed Rishi Sunak’s office and Number 10 offering him the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply. 

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