Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak apologise over partygate and pay fines for Covid breaches

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand reports that the PM and Chancellor partying through lockdown measures is no longer an allegation - it's fact

The prime minister and his wife Carrie Johnson have both apologised and paid their £50 fines for breaking Covid regulations by attending a birthday party for the PM at Downing Street, Boris Johnson has confirmed.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also spoke out on Tuesday night to say he too had paid his fine from the Metropolitan Police. Mr Sunak offered an “unreserved apology” and signalled he would stay in his job.

The fines are in relation a birthday celebration that all three attended on June 19, 2020 - a party first reported by ITV News in January.

What have the trio said regarding the fines?

Mr Johnson offered a "full apology" but added "in all frankness at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules".

After being issued with a fine, he “now humbly accepts” he did break Covid-19 laws.

Many of his critics say the police fine shows he misled Parliament with his claim that all Covid guidelines were followed on Downing Street during the pandemic and that under the ministerial code he should resign.

Watch in full as the PM reacts to his partygate fine:

But Mr Johnson said he "spoke in completely good faith" because it had not occurred to him when addressing MPs on December 8 over separate party allegations, "that I was in breach of the rules".

"I think the best thing I can do now is, having settled the fine, is focus on the job in hand," he said.

Mrs Johnson has also said sorry, with her spokesperson saying she "apologises unreservedly" for attending the gathering, despite believing "that she was acting in accordance with the rules at the time".

Mr Sunak said: “I understand that for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence. I respect the decision that has been made and have paid the fine.

“I know people sacrificed a great deal during Covid, and they will find this situation upsetting. I deeply regret the frustration and anger caused and I am sorry."

The fines were paid at a reduced rate of £50, down from £100, because it was paid within a 14-day period.

How have MPs reacted to the fines?

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on Mr Johnson and the chancellor to resign, saying the police fines prove they had "broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public".

He told broadcasters that Mr Johnson's fine marked the "first time in the history of our country that a prime minister has been found to be in breach of the law".

Many of the PM's former critics have remained quiet following news of his fine, with a number privately saying they would not comment either because of the war in Ukraine or until the full police investigation has concluded.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries, one of Mr Johnson's most vocal supporters, said on Tuesday the prime minister attended the birthday celebration for "less than 10 minutes during a busy working day".

The Met Police has previously said the event was held between 2pm and 3pm.

The partygate timeline - from 2021 to present day

Foreign secretary Liz Truss also spoke out in defence of the PM and Mr Sunak - she tweeted that the pair had her full support.

"The prime minister has apologised and taken responsibility for what happened in Downing Street," she wrote.

Sir Roger Gale, who was the first Tory MP to publicly reveal he had submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson, said the prime minister has "mislead the House [of Commons]".

He stopped short, however, of calling for his resignation, pointing to the crisis in Ukraine as reason not to force a change in government at the current time.

Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana on how MPs have reacted to the fines

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak “must resign now” as they have “insulted the millions of people who faithfully followed the rules that they set”.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, however, said it “wouldn’t be right” to remove the prime minister during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP have called for Parliament - which is in its Easter recess - to be recalled so Boris Johnson has to face MPs over the fines.

However, Labour acknowledged that only the government has the power to ask the Speaker to recall Parliament.

Could the prime minister be removed?

The PM could be removed by his own party if at least 53 of his MPs to submit letters of no confidence in his leadership to the 1922 Committee, which represents backbench Tories.

If the committee receives 53 letters a confidence submit letters to the committee it will trigger a secret ballot, giving MPs the chance to back or boot the leader.

If more than 50% of Tory MPs then vote to remove him, he will lose his role of party leader and a fresh leadership election will follow.

'This is the first time a British PM has been found to have broken the law': UK Editor Paul Brand reflects on an unprecedented day for politics

If he wins over half the votes, then he will remain party leader and be given a year's immunity from any further confidence votes.

An alternative route could see the opposition table a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson in the House of Commons but that would require a majority of MPs to back it and that is probably unlikely given the Tories' huge majority.

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand said the initial feeling among Tory backbenchers is that the PM "will survive this" because it is thought there's "not sufficient momentum right now to remove him as leader".

Mr Johnson's time as prime minister appeared to be hanging in the balance after police first announced they were investigating partygate, but pressure for his resignation appears to have been temporality halted by the war in Ukraine.

However, now that the PM is being fined - an unprecedented situation - it is highly likely that he will once again face calls to quit from within his own party.

What next for the PM and Chancellor? Political Editor Robert Peston explains

He's one of at least 100 people being probed by officers looking into allegations of widespread Covid-rule-breaking in government, with 12 events being investigated.

The prime minister is understood to have attended at least six of the gatherings - held during various lockdowns - however his excuse is that his attendance was always part of his working day.

UK Editor Paul Brand said the occurrence of more than 50 Covid breaches makes Whitehall one of the UK's top coronavirus offenders.

How has the public reacted to the fines? ITV News Reporter Hannah Miller explores

The identities of people issued with FPNs have not been disclosed publicly by the Met, nor the event a fine relates to.

In a statement updating the public on Operation Hillman - as the partygate probe is known - the Met said it is continuing to review evidence and further fines could be issued.

It said: "We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed, this includes continuing to assess significant amounts of investigative material from which further referrals may be made to ACRO."

The ACRO Criminal Records Office will accept the referrals and is responsible for issuing the fines.

Police said the first 20 fines were being issued two weeks ago and since then the PM had refused to accept they show rules were broken on Downing Street.

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