Downing Street's former ethics chief among 20 fined by police in partygate investigation

The Met issued the first batch of penalties weeks after sending out 100 questionnaires

A police officer outside 10 Downing Street in London.  The Metropolitan Police have issued 20 penalty notices so far over Covid rule-breaking parties in British PM's official residence. EPA
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A former senior UK government official has confirmed she has paid a fine for a lockdown-busting party.

No 10’s former ethics chief, Helen MacNamara, is among about 20 people to be slapped with a £50 fine by police in London as part of their investigation of 12 gatherings held while Covid-19 restrictions were in place.

The Metropolitan Police’s investigation includes six events which Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to have attended. The force last week issued its first batch of penalties weeks after more than 100 people, including Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, were sent legal questionnaires.

The UK government has sought to put to bed the “partygate” scandal, which has for months blighted Downing Street, with a minister insisting the “world has moved on” from the affair.

On Monday, Ms MacNamara, the former deputy cabinet secretary, said she was “sorry for the error of judgment I have shown”.

She was reported to have received the fixed penalty notice (FPN) in connection with a leaving do held in the Cabinet Office on June 18 2020.

Ms MacNamara, who now works for the Premier League, said: “I am sorry for the error of judgment I have shown. I have accepted and paid the fixed penalty notice.”

She was among the initial group of people to be issued with an FPN following the Metropolitan Police investigation into Downing Street and Whitehall parties during England’s coronavirus restrictions and is the first to confirm they have paid a penalty.

Others punished over their attendance at events included government staff who partied at a gathering held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021. The prime minister's office apologised to Queen Elizabeth II over the celebrations held during a period of national mourning.

Helen MacNamara, a former ethics chief at Downing Street, is understood to have been among about 20 people fined over attending parties during lockdowns. Photo: UK Government

Mr Johnson’s Cabinet colleague attempted to dim the spotlight on the “partygate” saga, which has for months captured the public’s attention and dominated the day-to-day workings in Downing Street. Focus briefly shifted away from the scandal in February after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, but the fines issued last week brought it back into the spotlight.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart on Monday said his constituents were not calling for anyone to resign over parties held in No 10 and across Whitehall while Covid restrictions were in place. Mr Hart said “of course” the allegations of partying did not sit comfortably with him, but he dismissed calls that anyone should lose their job if they were issued with a penalty.

“I have 65,000 constituents in west Wales, where I represent, and they are not shy in coming forward and expressing a view about this and a number of other subjects,” he told Sky News.

“And throughout all of this saga of the Downing Street parties they have said one thing very clearly, and in a vast majority they say they want contrition and they want an apology, but they don’t want a resignation.”

Mr Hart said “the world has moved on a considerable distance” and the saga “is now coming to a conclusion”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are among about 100 people sent a legal questionnaire by the Met Police over parties in Downing Street. AFP

Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested wrong information about gatherings had been relayed to the prime minister before he told MPs no rules had been broken.

“The prime minister said that he was told the rules were followed, but that turns out not to be correct and we know that fines have now been issued, but the Prime Minister can only work on the information he is given,” he told LBC.

Updated: April 04, 2022, 2:47 PM
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