Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are to receive fixed-penalty notices for breaking Covid laws after a police investigation into Downing Street parties during lockdown, leading to calls for them both to resign.
In an unprecedented development, the prime minister and his chancellor were both set to be fined for breaking their own emergency laws brought in to protect the country during the pandemic. They are believed to be the first prime minister and chancellor to have broken the law while in office, reports The Guardian.
Carrie Johnson, the prime minister’s wife, is also set to receive a fixed penalty notice, her spokesperson confirmed.
The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, called on Johnson and Sunak to resign. “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public,” he said. There are also questions over whether Johnson misled parliament, as he told MPs in the Commons that all Covid rules were followed.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister and SNP leader, also called for the prime minister to quit. “Boris Johnson must resign,” she said. “He broke the law and repeatedly lied to parliament about it. The basic values of integrity and decency – essential to the proper working of any parliamentary democracy – demand that he go. And he should take his out of touch chancellor with him.”
The fines relate to parties held in Downing Street during lockdown and are likely to include a gathering in the cabinet room for Johnson’s birthday in June 2020, which was also attended by Sunak.
However, No 10 gave no details on how many events the prime minister will be fined for attending and would not say whether he would contest the fine – likely to be £20 or £50 – or pay them straight away.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “The prime minister and chancellor of the Exchequer have today received notification that the Metropolitan police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices. We have no further details, but we will update you again when we do.”
It comes after the Met said it had issued more than 50 fines, with Starmer saying the “widespread criminality” called into question Boris Johnson’s honesty and integrity.
The force has been investigating 12 gatherings, including some in the Downing Street garden, inside No 10, and one in the prime minister’s own residence at No 11.
The fines are likely to prompt renewed speculation over Johnson’s leadership, after he faced a significant threat from his own party over the scandal earlier this year.
Some Conservative MPs have previously said a line would be crossed by allowing a prime minister to remain in office if he is found to have broken the law.
About 20-30 MPs were at one point thought to have submitted letters of no confidence in the prime minister, with 54 needed to trigger a leadership challenge. However, some have backed away from the idea of removing Johnson as leader since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, arguing now is not the time to change leader.
People are referred by the police for fines to the Criminal Records Office (ACRO) if officers have a “reasonable belief” that the law has been broken.
If Johnson and Sunak were to contest the fines, it would be likely to be dealt with via the single justice procedure in a magistrates court – behind closed doors as with thousands of other Covid fines imposed during lockdown.
Starmer told the BBC: “This is further evidence that blows the PM’s defence out of the water. He told the country, he told parliament, that all the rules had been complied with in Downing Street., where he lives and works, and now it is obvious there was widespread criminality.
“I’m afraid it calls into even further question the honesty and integrity of the prime minister, who stood up and said nothing was going on that shouldn’t have been going on. It’s obvious that was wrong and it reflects very badly on the prime minister.”