A second Cabinet minister has admitted that lockdown laws were broken during the partygate scandal – even after Boris Johnson refused to do so.
International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan conceded that people who have been referred for fines by police investigating events in Downing Street and Whitehall had “broken the regulations”.
Ms Trevelyan’s comments on Sky News came a day after Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister and justice secretary, used similar language as he also accepted that the law was broken.
But Boris Johnson on Wednesday refused to admit, when pressed by MPs, that “criminality” took place – saying he did not want to give a “running commentary” on the probe.
Number 10 has also repeatedly batted off similar attempts by reporters trying to establish whether the PM accepts that the law was broken.
Earlier this week, the Met Police announced that an initial tranche of 20 fixed penalties were being issued as a result of the investigation into parties in 2020 and 2021.
Pressed on whether that meant the law had been broken on 20 occasions, Ms Trevelyan told Sky News: “That’s right, they’ve broken the regulations that were set in the COVID Act and the police deem that that was what they did and therefore they’ve been fined accordingly.”
Asked why the PM had not admitted as much, she said: “He wants to wait until the whole process of the police review has been done.
“That’s the position he’s taken and I respect that.”
Police are not naming those being fined but Downing Street has said that it will reveal if the PM is handed a penalty.
Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves told Sky News: “It’s blindingly obvious to everyone that the law has been broken.
“It matters because it’s a question of integrity, of telling the truth.”
The Liberal Democrats have said Downing Street’s position was “absurd”.
The prime minister has also faced claims that he breached the ministerial code after telling parliament initially that no rules had been broken in relation to the parties.
Mr Johnson told the Commons liaison committee on Wednesday: “I think it’s very important that you should be clear with the House of Commons – and I’ve tried my best to be as clear as I can about my understanding of events.”