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A party of the sort that is alleged to have taken place inside Downing Street last December might not necessarily have broken the strict lockdown rules in place at the time, the policing minister, Kit Malthouse, has appeared to argue.

Malthouse’s comments contradicted those made by Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, who conceded on Sunday that a “formal party” of the sort reported would have been contrary to the then-Covid-19 guidance.

Malthouse also took a different view to Raab’s claim that the police “don’t normally look back and investigate things that have taken place a year ago”, saying it would be right for police to follow up any formal complaints about the event.

Questions about the gathering on 18 December last year, when London was in the top level of Covid restrictions, dogged Malthouse throughout a round of media interviews on Monday, one intended to showcase a new government strategy on drugs.

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