Sue Gray partygate report expected to include pictures

Credit: PA

The long-anticipated Sue Gray report into illegal Downing Street parties during lockdown will be published this week and will include pictures, ITV News understands.

Political Editor Robert Peston said the report is set to include photos of the parties in what could be a damaging week for Boris Johnson.

It comes as pressure remains on the prime minister to explain why he met with top civil servant Ms Gray to discuss her pivotal partygate report, after the news emerged on Friday night.

It is understood the pair held at least one meeting to give an update on the document’s progress while it was being drafted.

Labour has called on the PM to "urgently explain why he held a secret meeting with Sue Gray to discuss her report, despite claiming her investigation was completely independent."

But cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi insisted on Sunday the prime minister has "never intervened" in Ms Gray's report, despite admitting he doesn't know what was discussed in a meeting between the pair.

The Education Secretary insisted to Sky News the PM has "never intervened" in the investigation and stressed Ms Gray’s integrity is "unquestionable".

He could not, however, say who called the meeting or what was discussed.

"All I can say to you is the meeting that took place between Sue Gray and the Prime Minister – I can’t tell you who called the meeting."

Asked what was discussed, he also said: "I don’t know."

The deadline has passed for those named in the official report into Downing Street parties to file their response, so what happens next?

Quizzed on how he could be sure Mr Johnson did not intervene if he did not know what was discussed in a meeting, Mr Zahawi told the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: "Because I know the PM has been determined from day one, and he shared that with me, with other ministers and of course the country, that he would have Sue Gray conduct her report independently, he would never intervene or in any way try and influence that report."

As a civil servant, Ms Gray ultimately reports to the PM.

The Education Secretary told ITV News he didn't think it was "relevant" who called the meeting, adding: "Boris Johnson meets his senior civil servants all the time."

'I don't believe a meeting that happened two weeks ago is relevant to the outcome of the final report'

Mr Zahawi stressed Ms Gray "didn't pull her punches" in the watered-down version of the report which has already been published.

"She would never allow anybody to interfere in her report," he added.

Mr Zahawi said the meeting was "not relevant" to the "outcome of the final report".

In a statement on Friday night, a Number 10 spokesperson: "The PM commissioned the investigation led by Sue Gray and has been clear throughout that it should be completely independent.

"As he reiterated again today, the decision on what and when to publish rests entirely with the investigation team and he will respond in Parliament once it concludes".

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi. Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

A watered-down version of the report has already been published, at the request of the Metropolitan Police who were still investigating criminal activity in relation to partygate at the time.

That report found a "failure of leadership" at Downing Street and behaviour that was "difficult to justify" given the "backdrop of the pandemic" and the sacrifices the general public had made.

Scotland Yard’s four-month probe into lockdown-busting parties at the heart of government was closed on Thursday, paving the way for the publication of Ms Gray's report in full.

A total of 126 fines were handed out to 83 people and the force confirmed the PM would not be punished further than the £50 fine he received in April for attending his own birthday bash in June 2020, when indoor mixing was banned.