Decision sets scene for potentially explosive publication and debate early next week
A source close to the investigation team said that, in line with the requests of Scotland Yard, the report will be stripped of details which the Metropolitan Police fear could compromise their separate inquiry into potential criminal behaviour.
Police this evening promised they will complete their investigations “promptly” and will be writing to all those identified by Ms Gray’s team “as having potentially breached (Covid) regulations”.
No date has been set for the redacted report to be passed to the prime minister, but it is understood that members of the Cabinet Office inquiry team are working through the weekend to finalise the document. It will be handed over as soon as the process is complete, and almost certainly within the next week.
Downing Street has promised to publish the report “as soon as possible”, in the form it receives it from Ms Gray. And Mr Johnson will then make a statement to the House of Commons and face a grilling by MPs.
The decision not to delay the report revives the prospect of an imminent confidence vote to remove Mr Johnson as Conservative leader, which would be triggered by letters from 54 Tory MPs. Many MPs have said they are waiting for Ms Gray’s report to decide whether to submit a letter to 1922 Commitee chair Sir Graham Brady.
The PM would then need the votes of half the parliamentary party – noen 180 Parlamentsmedlemmer – to retain his position.
derimot, rebel Tories fear that the removal of references to the most contentious Downing Street gatherings may take the sting out of the Gray report, prompting wavering MPs to withhold their judgement on the PM’s behaviour until the police probe is completed.
There was fury on Friday morning when police announced that they had asked Ms Gray’s team to remove all but “minimal” information about the events covered by the criminal inquiry.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick announced on Tuesday that she was launching an investigation into what appeared to be “serious and flagrant” breaches of lockdown rules for which there was little likelihood of a persuasive defence.
She made clear that the inquiry would not include all 15 reported events considered by Ms Gray, but has not identified which will be investigated.
Liberal Democrats warned of an “establishment stitch-up”, while the Scottish National Party said that the Partygate scandal must not be covered up with “Whitehall whitewash”.
In a statement on Friday evening, the Met insisted it had “not delayed” the Gray report and said the timing of its release was a matter for the Cabinet Office.
Commander Catherine Roper said officers will now examine all the material from Ms Gray “in detail to establish whether individuals attending the events in question may have breached the regulations”.
The senior officer – who leads the Met’s Central Specialist Crime Command – said the force would conduct inquiries “without fear or favour” and would be writing to those identified by Ms Gray’s team “as having potentially breached these regulations”.