eports of two parties held in Downing Street the night before the Queen had to sit alone at Prince Philip’s funeral are “shocking”, a government minister has said.
Security minister Damian Hinds said the boozy gatherings happened at a “particularly sombre time” for the country and would be investigated.
Two separate leaving drinks for the prime minister’s former director of communications James Slack and a photographer were reportedly held in Number 10 on April 16 last year and combined into one event as the evening went on, reported the Telegraph.
Mr Hinds said: “This will be part of the investigations taken on by Sue Gray and we must wait to see what comes through in that.”
He added: “If the details that are in the story turn out to be true then that would be … I mean, clearly people are going to form their judgment, but it will be part of these broader investigations being undertaken by Sue Gray.”
On Friday morning, Mr Slack said he wanted to “apologise unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused” by the gathering, which he said “should not have happened at the time that it did”.
Mr Slack is said to have given “a farewell speech” to thank colleagues ahead of taking up his new role as deputy editor of the Sun newspaper.
Guests were reportedly sent to a nearby shop with a suitcase, that was brought back filled with booze.
During the basement gathering, sources claimed there was a “party atmosphere”, with “music blaring out” from a laptop.
The events, said to have been attended by around 30 people in total, would have taken place just a day before the Queen was forced to sit alone at Prince Philip’s funeral because of strict Covid rules..
The latest claims heap further pressure on the Prime Minister, who was at Chequers at the time, over whether those at the heart of government followed the rules at all times.
Mr Johnson admitted on Wednesday that he personally attended a Downing Street party for 25 minutes in May 2020, when the country was under strict national lockdown.
He said he believed he was attending a work event.
A senior civil servant, Sue Gray, has been tasked with investigating alleged parties at No 10, but it is unclear when the investigation will conclude.
A spokesperson for the force said: “The Cabinet Office is conducting an inquiry into gatherings at Number 10 Downing Street and the Department for Education.
“The Met has ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office in relation to this inquiry. If the inquiry identifies evidence of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence it will be passed to the Met for further consideration.”
The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, who had called for the force to open an investigation, accused the Met of turning a “blind eye” to the allegations.
But Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was “absolutely right” for the force to wait until the Cabinet Office inquiry had ended.
She said: “There’s an ongoing investigation, that investigation needs to conclude, and then obviously other actions could be taken post that investigation, but we can’t pre-empt things right now”.