Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Labor Demand Investigation for “Clearing Evidence of No. 10 Party”

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Labor has called for “urgent” answers to “unprecedented” allegations that No 10 staff have been asked to erase evidence of illegal parties at Downing Street.

Party Deputy Leader Angela Rayner has written to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case asking him to confirm that no records related to the Partygate investigation, including electronic messages, have been destroyed.

Your letter seen by LatestPageNews, also asked Mr Case to confirm whether a request for removal of evidence was made by senior officials or special advisers by junior officials.

A report follows LatestPageNews in which two sources claimed a senior official told them to “clean” their phones of anything that “might look like a party” following early reports of gatherings during the Covid restrictions in December last year.

The alleged oral order, which a Downing Street spokesman said they “did not recognize”, is at odds with a written request for staff to keep all records relevant to the internal inquiry issued by the senior Officer Sue Gray being carried out.

Ms Rayner said: “Apart from the illegality of deleting messages, there is a real issue of fairness and leadership. High-ranking figures with power over lower-level officials could press them to take action to protect their own skin.”

She added: “It is deeply concerning that staff have reportedly been pressured into doing something wrong in order to cover up top-level decisions.”

On Friday, The times reported that Ms Gray’s inquiries were “caught by reports of parties at Downing Street the day before Prince Philip’s funeral. The investigating officer is said to be concerned that Downing Street staff are withholding information about parties to the inquiry.

The Labor vice-chairman also asked Mr Case if he would ensure that the disciplinary process was applied fairly and appropriately to “everyone involved”, including himself.

Mr. Case, as the chief of civil service, has the final say in all disciplinary decisions involving officers. Unless other arrangements are made, he will determine what steps to take on Mrs Gray’s report, unless they concern ministers or political officials, in which case that falls to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Labor’s intervention also comes after a warning from the Information Commissioner’s Office in response to the report.

“Deleting, destroying, or concealing information as part of a freedom of information request with the intent to prevent its disclosure is a criminal offense under Section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act,” said an ICO spokesman.

Ms Rayner has formally asked Mr Case to confirm whether the Cabinet Office and Downing Street have approached the ICO.

She added: “The UK civil service has a global reputation for upholding the highest standards and as you of course know the Civil Service Act is designed to ensure that civil servants can carry out their jobs without fear or favour.

“I am concerned that junior staff may lose their jobs to protect politicians or their agents to get through this series of scandals.”

The intervention also follows reports of a plan to bail out the Johnson premiership that involves officials losing their roles in a fight back.

sources told LatestPageNews Boris Johnson and others at Downing Street had used the informal name Operation Save Big Dog for the plan to save the Prime Minister.

A spokesman for Number 10 said they “absolutely didn’t recognize” the phrase.

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