Boris Johnson has declined to repeat a claim from Downing Street that staff did not hold a Christmas party in No 10 during Covid restrictions as further details of the alleged bash emerged.
The Prime Minister instead insisted no rules were broken as the Times reported that staff wore festive jumpers and were asked to bring “secret Santa” gifts.
They were reported to have brought alcohol and food to the event said to have been attended by dozens of colleagues on December 18 last year when London was in Tier 3 restrictions banning social mixing indoors.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesman has insisted “there was not a party” but the Prime Minister declined to characterise the event during a visit to a prison in London on Tuesday.
“What I can tell you is that all the guidelines were observed, continue to be observed,” he told broadcasters when questioned at HMP Isis as the Government tries to portray itself as tough on crime.
Asked if he investigated personally, Mr Johnson said: “I am satisfied myself that the guidelines were followed at all times.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said “our position has not changed” following Mr Johnson’s comments.
Ministers are yet to explain how the alleged bash complied with the rules in place at the time, despite coming under pressure since an initial report in the Daily Mirror.
The newspaper said two events took place in No 10 in the run-up to the festive season last year, including Mr Johnson giving a speech at a leaving do during November’s lockdown.
The other was said to be a staff party in December where party games were played, food and drinks were served, and revelries went on past midnight.
At the time, the Tier 3 rules explicitly banned work Christmas lunches and parties where it is “a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the Prime Minister to “be honest” about the “knees-up” in Downing Street.
“Very many people are very, very upset by this because while all the rest of the country was in lockdown not seeing loved ones, the people who lost people in that period now know that there was a knees-up and a booze-up in Downing Street, and even now the Prime Minister can’t just be honest.
“So I say to him: Be honest, own up. We don’t need a criminal investigation, we need a Prime Minister who is honest about it.”
Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak denied having attended any parties in Downing Street during the lockdown.
Labour MP Karl Turner asked: “The Chancellor was evasive when interviewed by the media last week but we need a clear answer on this very important point because many people across the country made great personal sacrifice during the lockdown.
“So will the Chancellor categorically deny in the House that he or any of his officials or Spads (special advisers) attended any of the Downing Street Christmas parties on November 27 or December 18 last year?”
Mr Sunak replied: “No, I did not attend any parties.”
One Labour MP could be heard saying: “So there were parties.”