Sue Gray tells No10 staff they can see partygate notes on them before responding to police
Downing Street staff who are under investigation for allegedly attending Covid-19 lockdown-breaking gatherings will be allowed to read evidence gathered about them by civil servant Sue Gray, before answering police questions.
ITV News has seen a leaked letter written to staff by Ms Gray, who led the Cabinet Office investigation into claims of parties in Number 10 during the pandemic.
In it she grants staff - including the prime minister - limited access to notes taken about them during her internal inquiry.
Last month she passed her evidence - including around 300 photographs - to the Metropolitan Police, sparking a separate investigation by the force.
Those under police suspicion have been given police questionnaires compiled by officers who may issue fines for any rule breaking.
However, before completing their questionnaires, Downing Street staff will now be allowed to see notes made by Ms Gray's team during her interviews with them.
In a letter on February 17, Ms Gray tells staff: "I appreciate that this is a worrying time for those affected by this process, which I do not wish to compound."
She goes on to say that "in light of particular circumstances surrounding this set of events I have, as an exceptional measure, decided that individuals may be provided with limited access to the notes". Those notes are helping form the basis for the ongoing police investigation.
Read the letter in full:
Staff will not be allowed to view any information Ms Gray gathered on anyone except themselves.
Allowing staff to see them will enable them to cross-reference their testimonies and maintain consistent answers. There is a concern that they will be able to see how much Ms Gray has managed to glean about the parties before admitting any potential wrongdoing to police.
Last month the Metropolitan Police blocked the full publication of the Cabinet Office inquiry, fearing it could prejudice the police investigation.
However, staff will now be able to see notes made about themselves before deciding what information they give to police.
Ms Gray admits in her letter that this is not standard practice, stating: "The focus for individuals should be on completing the police questionnaire within the timeline given.
"Access to notes from previous interviews are not necessary to do this, nor is it standard practice in internal investigations such as this to share or agree such notes with interviewees." She also tells staff of the following limits:
"You may view the notes in person with a member of the investigation team present. These viewings will be time limited."
"You will, in line with the process for investigations of this kind and in keeping with the interview process, not be allowed to bring any legal representative with you."
"You will not be permitted to bring phones, tablets, computers or any other recording equipment into the room with you."
"You will not be permitted to challenge, suggest changes or amendments to the notes or otherwise challenge their contents."
Downing Street staff have seven days to complete their questionnaires after receiving them. Boris Johnson's is due to be returned today.
ITV News has contacted the Cabinet Office for comment.