Sir Keir Starmer urged to publish Sue Gray messages amid Tory anger over her move to Labour

Sue Gray produced a highly-critical report into lockdown gatherings held in Downing Street. Credit: PA

Sir Keir Starmer should publish his messages with civil servant Sue Gray, a cabinet minister said amid Tory outcry at the Partygate investigator’s move to Labour’s staff. The Labour leader has faced questions after it emerged that Ms Gray, who received national prominence for her role investigating lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street, will become his chief of staff. Ms Gray is expected to submit a formal request on Monday to take on the role when she puts in her application to Parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba). There has been no suggestion of wrongdoing. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and allies have leapt on the appointment as part of efforts to discredit the Privileges Committee inquiry into whether he lied to the House of Commons over lockdown breaches.

Sue Gray Credit: PA

Mr Johnson received one of the 126 fines issued by Scotland Yard over lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street and Whitehall. If found to have lied to Parliament and suspended for more than 10 days, he could be forced to face a by-election.

He claimed the Commons inquiry into whether he lied to MPs over Partygate has found “absolutely no evidence” to suggest he knew the rules were being broken.

Speaking on Sunday, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris praised Ms Gray, who he said he has worked with in the past. But he also sought to put pressure on the Labour party leader, saying: "I think Keir Starmer can clear this up because he can just publish messages from him and his team to her at that appropriate time."

"In the past, the Labour party itself has raised questions about civil servants leaving the civil service and going directly into sectors of the economy which they had privileged information about.

"So I am not surprised this is raising questions," the minister, who has described Ms Gray as someone with integrity, added.

Chris Heaton-Harris suggested Sir Keir should publish his messages with Sue Gray

Sir Keir has so far dodged questions about when conversations began with Ms Gray, who is expected to await the decision of the Acoba before starting the role. Parliament’s anti-corruption watchdog can advise waiting periods before civil servants take on other jobs and the prime minister ultimately makes the final decision. Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said Ms Gray was always going to be among the names considered to be the party’s new chief of staff. The shadow work and pensions secretary told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg: “She is quite rightly going to go through a process. There’s proper procedures in place when a senior civil servant leaves the civil service and I am sure she will set it all out when she has those conversations.” Pressed again on when the conversations began, Mr Ashworth said he had not been “privy to them”. On Saturday, Ms Gray received backing from a former Conservative Cabinet Office minister as Francis Maude said he had never the “slightest reason to question either her integrity or her political impartiality”.

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