I absolutely understand the concerns of residents about allegations that several Christmas gatherings are said to have taken place in Downing Street and Whitehall last December, while tightened restrictions were in place across the country.
First and foremost, I would like to make it very clear that I was not present at any of the alleged gatherings, nor was I invited to any event in Downing Street or elsewhere in Westminster last December.
I appreciate that constituents might see this as an easy line to take, and I fully understand any frustration, but given the severity of the allegations, I believe it is right that a full investigation is carried out so that all the facts can be established before any further action is taken. I therefore welcome that the Cabinet Secretary is undertaking the initial investigation as an HR matter with the clear remit to share evidence of law breaking with the police if it emerges. This is entirely in line with normal due process.
I have heard so many accounts of personal sacrifice from residents, particularly with regards to last Christmas when we should have been spending time with our loved ones, and so I know how emotive these allegations are. Whilst rules contained flexibility to allow for different situations, absolutely nobody was exempt from them and so if it is found that there was any breach of Covid regulations then I have been reassured that there will be disciplinary action for those involved.
I am concerned by the damage to public confidence in our Government in light of these claims, and I know there is a worry that any tightening of restrictions will be ignored, posing a risk to public health. I therefore hope that the facts are established as quickly as possible and will be following developments in this area very closely.