Former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson hosted a party for officials and ministers in the department’s cafe last December due to a breach of coronavirus restrictions, it has been reported.
A source told the newspaper: ‘There were a lot of people gathering in the cafe area, drinking. It is just very reckless. ‘
A week earlier Mr Williamson advised people to take a ‘responsible approach’ by following social distancing and self-isolation rules.
The Department for Education (DfE) admitted it held a social gathering of employees last December contrary to coronavirus social distancing rules, adding in a statement that ‘well rather than not congregating in this way at that particular time’.
A ministry spokesman said: ‘On 10 December 2020, a meeting of colleagues was in the office – and those who had worked together during the pandemic, as they could not work from home – took place at the DfE construction office in London at a time when the city was subject to tier two restrictions.
‘The meeting was used to thank those employees for their efforts during the pandemic.
‘Drinks and snacks were brought in by attendees and no outside guests or support staff were invited or present.
“Although this is work-related, in retrospect we accept that it was better not to assemble this way at that particular time.”
The potentially damaging saga comes as Boris Johnson faces renewed pressure after video emerged showing senior aides joking about a Downing Street Christmas party just days after staff is said to have organized a carnival gathering in violation of the no-door rule.
Video obtained by ITV News shows that employees held a fake press conference on December 22 discussing a party the previous Friday – the date of the alleged rule-breaking gathering.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed officers were looking into leaked video related to ‘alleged violations’ of coronavirus regulations.
Responding to the ITV report, a Downing Street spokesman said: ‘No Christmas parties at all. Covid rules are always followed. ‘
Ministers have yet to explain how the accused had complied with the rules laid out at the time, despite being under pressure since an initial report in the Daily Mirror.
The paper said two events had taken place at No 10 in the run-up to last year’s festive season, including Mr Johnson’s resignation speech during the lockdown in November.
The other was supposed to be an employee party in December, where party games were played, food and drinks were served and fun took place past midnight.
At the time, Level 3 rules forbade lunches and Christmas parties as ‘primary and disallowed social activities’.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said the leaked video showed ‘The Government broke the rules, they broke up and now they’re laughing about it’.
He told ITV News: ‘Unfortunately we have a Prime Minister that is socially distanced from the truth.
‘I think he hasn’t been upfront about this at all. It’s increasingly clear that there was a party – today’s evidence only adds to that.
“Instead of accepting that and being honest about it, the Prime Minister is pretending not to break any rules.”
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https://metro.co.uk/2021/12/07/gavin-williamson-threw-party-for-staff-while-millions-were-in-lockdown-15733379/ Gavin Williamson 'banished staff party while millions were under lockdown'