Sue Gray partygate report seems unlikely today as Boris Johnson leaves London for trip

Tories opposing Boris Johnson are calling for more Conservative policies, including scrapping the National Insurance rise, in exchange for their support, reports ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana

Boris Johnson has denied he is delaying the publication of Sue Gray's partygate report amid suggestions it could be Monday before it's released.

The PM - during a visit to north Wales - said he is "absolutely not" attempting to push back the release of the civil servant's findings, but was unable to say when it might be published.

He also insisted he would publish it in full whenever he receives it.

Ms Gray's inquiry - which is looking into several alleged rule-breaking Downing Street parties - is now complete, and ITV News understands it will be "very uncomfortable reading" for the PM.

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston believes Monday is likely to be when people will get to see the report and when many Tories will make up their mind as to whether they want to remove Mr Johnson as prime minister.

Mr Johnson told PMQs he would "of course" resign if civil servant Ms Gray finds he knowingly misled Parliament by insisting he followed all coronavirus rules throughout the pandemic.

And its likely many more Tory MPs would join the around 20 who have submitted no confidence letters on his leadership if he attempted to cling onto power, if it's shown he lied to Parliament.

Minister Therese Coffey told ITV News Mr Johnson takes "full responsibility" for behaviour of those working in his government but said people must wait for the report to be published when asked if he'd resign.

She added that Mr Johnson is eager for the criminal police investigation - launched on Tuesday - to conclude so he can continue with government business.

When will the report come out?

In theory the report could still be released before the weekend because there is two days of business in the House of Commons - Thursday and Friday - when it could be presented to MPs.

Convention dictates that the report must first be made available to MPs before the public, meaning if it's not published by Friday it will have to come after the weekend.

"I think this delay is positive for the prime minister - it's bought him time" - Anushka Asthana

But Downing Street has said it "remains hypothetically possible to still publish it today or tomorrow", in a briefing with journalists, as it was confirmed Number 10 still hasn't received the report.

It was widely expected to be handed to Downing Street on Wednesday but reports suggested the final document was still being pored over overnight.

It is thought the delay is being caused by government lawyers and the police working out whether the report can be published in full before the Met investigation concludes.

There are concerns that an unredacted version of the report could prejudice the policy inquiry.

Peston said if "government lawyers succeed in excising the most damaging evidence and conclusions from Sue Gray’s partygate report, that is a disastrous outcome for Boris Johnson, Downing Street officials and the government".

He added: "It would keep the Sword of Damocles hanging above them all, pending weeks of Met Police investigations.

"In essence Gray’s report would say 'you’ll have to wait for all the juicy sensational stuff'. Such would make it impossible for the PM or his MPs to clear the slate and re-start in any meaningful way."

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told ITV’s Peston: “I read it might be the end of the week, but as you say it could be early next week. Let’s wait and see”.

The suggestions are that due to Thursday being Holocaust Memorial Day and many MPs being back in their constituencies from Thursday afternoon, No 10 may hold off on publishing the report once it was received.

Who will see the report?

When the Gray report is published, sources close to the investigation team expect it to be published in full, although ultimately it is a matter for Mr Johnson to decide.

Downing Street said it is the “intention” to publish the report in the format in which Mr Johnson receives it.

“It is simply a reflection of the fact that we have not received the findings and don’t know its format, that’s why it remains our intention to publish it as received,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

Labour could use parliamentary procedures in an attempt to force the publication of the full Gray report if Mr Johnson does not release it.

That could take the form of a “humble address”, effectively a message to the Queen demanding the publication of papers.

Could the investigations into partygate lead to Boris Johnson’s resignation?

Tory MPs have held off until the publication of the report to pass judgment on their leader over multiple alleged parties across No 10 and Whitehall during coronavirus restrictions.

It is not clear what the report has discovered but an indication of how damaging it could be for the government came when Scotland Yard chief Dame Cressida Dick announced a police inquiry was being carried out, based in part on evidence obtained by the Gray investigation.

Earlier, during Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested Mr Johnson had misled Parliament about Downing Street parties, something which would normally require a minister to resign.

Asked if he would quit, the prime minister said: "Of course, but let me tell the House that I think he is inviting a question about an investigation which is - as you know, Mr Speaker, I cannot comment - and which he, as a lawyer, will know that I can't comment on."

He added: “Of course he wants me out of the way – he does, and of course I don’t deny, for all sorts of reasons, many people may want me out of the way”.

Mr Kwarteng said Mr Johnson would not have to step aside even if he was interviewed by police in their probe, saying he was “100% behind the Prime Minister”, who he repeatedly noted was bound by the ministerial code.

Speaking to Peston he said: "No I wouldn't go that far, I mean I remember the cash for honours probe very well, I think it lasted about 16 months actually as I remember".

He was referring to an investigation into Tony Blair's government in which no one was charged.

Mr Rees-Mogg also stuck by Mr Johnson, telling Channel 4 News: “that wouldn’t be a resigning matter, because people are innocent in this country until proved guilty”.

But if the outcome of the Gray report is significantly damaging, Mr Johnson could face a revolt from his own MPs, who may choose to call a vote of no confidence.

Is support from Tory MPs conditional?

The Daily Mail reported that Tories were urging the PM to scrap a planned hike in national insurance to win back their support.

The Commons Treasury Committee has warned in a report released on Thursday that the rise in employer national insurance contributions would contribute to a rise in inflation.

Conservative MP for Bolton North East Mark Logan said that while Mr Johnson had his support, there needed to be a reset.

He told Sky News: “There has to be a huge change. There has to be a change of heart with the Prime Minister, there has to be a change of approach and a whole change to the infrastructure around the prime minister”.

Boris Johnson faced more challenging questions in Parliament during Prime Minister's Questions. Credit: PA

Mr Kwarteng meanwhile denied reports he was against the national insurance rise, as he told Peston: “We’ve had a settled Cabinet position”.

He added: “We’re all committed to the national insurance rise because that’s the best way… to fund the huge amounts of money that we need to make sure that we clear the backlog from the coronavirus in the NHS, and also, we can put our social care – health and social care – on a good footing”.

Pressure on the PM coming from elsewhere

Meanwhile, the prime minister is also facing pressure over another issue he has been accused of lying about - his role in the evacuation of animals from Afghanistan amid reports he did influence their removal from Kabul.

On Wednesday, leaked emails suggested Boris Johnson had personally intervened during the evacuation of Kabul to help animals escape Afghanistan which he had previously insisted did not happen.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, in his second comment on the situation in a matter of hours, said the Nowzad evacuation was “nothing to do with the Prime Minister”.

Earlier, Mr Wallace, coming to the defence of Mr Johnson, told broadcasters: “The claims that have been made and emails from the Foreign Office, who were not responsible for the actual evacuation operation, I don’t know where they come from but they certainly don’t show the reality, which was: I was in charge, the Prime Minister never asked me, it was nonsense”.

No 10 also issued a statement, coming shortly after the Prime Minister’s official spokesman held a briefing with reporters, stressing that Mr Johnson had played “no role” in the UK armed forces rescue mission, Operation Pitting, or the evacuation of animals from the Taliban-captured territory.