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Sue Gray sets out rationale for only publishing official photos in parties probe

Boris Johnson raises a can aloft in the Cabinet room in Downing Street on his birthday in June 2020 (Sue Gray Report/Cabinet Office)
Boris Johnson raises a can aloft in the Cabinet room in Downing Street on his birthday in June 2020 (Sue Gray Report/Cabinet Office)

Sue Gray has set out her rationale for including only “official photographs” in the final report detailing her investigation into lockdown parties in No 10 and Whitehall.

The 37-page written report published on Wednesday came with nine photographs attached.

The senior civil servant confirmed that she had received pictures “taken on personal devices” from people who attended gatherings in Downing Street, along with “official” images, while collecting evidence.

But while the images collated were used to document the “narrative” of what occurred at the events in question, Ms Gray ruled that official images were “within scope for disclosure” only where they were “particularly pertinent” in aiding understanding of the purpose of a gathering.

Before Ms Gray handed in her investigation, reports had suggested that there were pictures taken by state-funded Downing Street photographers, including of the Prime Minister’s surprise birthday bash on June 19 2020.

While Ms Gray does not declare who took the pictures, she has published images of Boris Johnson’s birthday party and a leaving do held on November 13 2020.

Mr Johnson, along with his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, were handed fixed penalty notices by police for attending the 56th birthday celebrations held in the Cabinet room.

Ms Gray said: “My team and I have been provided with photographs of some of the events that took place, some official and others taken on personal devices.

“I have considered whether any of these should be published.

Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak pictured at the surprise birthday bash for the Prime Minister
Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak pictured at the surprise birthday bash for the Prime Minister (Sue Gray Report/Cabinet Office)

“I concluded that the official photographs should be within scope for disclosure only where they are particularly pertinent in helping to understand the nature and purpose of a gathering.”

The Cabinet Office second permanent secretary said she had “limited identification of individuals” photographed to ministers and the Cabinet Secretary, with other attendees blurred out.

The report includes four images from Mr Johnson’s surprise birthday party in Downing Street.

The Prime Minister is seen in all four of the photos, while Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and Chancellor Rishi Sunak also feature.

Sandwiches, cake, soft drinks and what appears to be Estrella lager can be seen on the Cabinet table, with Mr Johnson spotted raising a can of the beer aloft in one of the images.

The pictures show a number of other people in the room at the time, but their identities have been obscured.

The five other images are of Mr Johnson attending a leaving do for the outgoing director of communications Lee Cain on November 13 2020.

The Prime Minister at a gathering in No 10 for the departure of ex-communications director Lee Cain
The Prime Minister at a gathering in No 10 for the departure of ex-communications director Lee Cain (Sue Gray Report/Cabinet Office)

In one of the pictures, a table can be seen in the foreground containing empty wine glasses, still and sparkling wine bottles and a red ministerial box.

Mr Johnson appears animated in the photographs, with the snaps possibly taken while he was making a speech.

He raises what appears to be a glass of wine in a toast in one of the provided images.

In Ms Gray’s detailing of the event, she said: “The Prime Minister attended on his way to his Downing Street flat, having left his office at 19.17.

“He went to the press office area, joined the gathering and made a leaving speech for Lee Cain.

“Wine had been provided and those attending, including the Prime Minister, were drinking alcohol.”

Ms Gray said the photographs gathered as part of the investigation, along with interviews, documents and her own notes, had been handed to the Cabinet Office’s knowledge and information team “for preservation in the official record”.