On Monday, Sue Gray delivered her report in the form of an update. The report is available to read here. The report detailed sixteen separate gatherings at Number 10 and other government offices during the period from 15th May 2020 to 16th April 2021 and confirmed that twelve of these were subject to further investigation by the 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 report makes four clear recommendations:
- “..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 staff to raise [concerns about behaviour].. informally outside of the line management chain”, and
- “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.”
These recommendations are understandable, and I am pleased that the Prime Minister has accepted them in full.
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 that police investigations and any subsequent penalties be paid in full.
I am astounded that for decades there has not been a clear policy on the consumption of alcohol in the workplace of Downing Street and, like most people, feel let down by the lax standards at the heart of government.
I am grateful to Sue Gray for the thorough manner of her report and I would expect that, once all the investigations are completed, that any information – not legally required to be withheld – will be made public in appropriate form.
There are, however, further challenges for the Prime Minister: the findings from the police investigations; questions on parliamentary conduct; and a more general assessment of standards in office. It is important that these further issues are resolved as quickly as possible and that the Prime Minister demonstrates that he is still able to govern effectively.
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 yesterday, 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.
Richard Fuller MP