Downing Street has admitted that staff gathered inside No 10 to celebrate Boris Johnson’s birthday when the first Covid lockdown was still in place.

ITV News reports up to 30 people attended the June 2020 event, sang Happy Birthday and were served cake.

No 10 said staff had “gathered briefly” to “wish the prime minister a happy birthday”, adding that he had been there “for less than 10 minutes”.

Rules at the time banned most indoor gatherings of more than two people.

ITV News said the birthday event had taken place in the Cabinet Room just after 2pm on 19 June 2020, adding that it had been a surprise for Mr Johnson after he returned from an official trip to a school in Hertfordshire.

It also reported that family friends had been hosted in the prime minister’s residence that evening.

But a No 10 spokesperson said: “This is totally untrue. In line with the rules at the time the prime minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening.”

And a source also told the BBC this second gathering had involved a barbecue in the No 10 garden with members of Mr Johnson’s family.

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Under the Covid restrictions in place at the time, up to six people could gather outside, in a socially distanced manner.

But gatherings inside of two or more people were still not permitted indoors, except for certain reasons such as work or education.

A source told the BBC that the prime minister’s then-fiancée, Carrie Symonds, had organised the cake served in the Cabinet Room and arrived at the event with Lulu Lytle, the interior designer who carried out a revamp of the couple’s Downing Street flat.

They also said some sandwiches and picnic food had been arranged and that there was no discussion about social distancing, with up to 30 people in attendance.

A spokeswoman for Ms Lytle’s company said she was present in Downing Street on 19 June working on the refurbishment, and “entered the Cabinet Room briefly as requested, while waiting to speak with the prime minister”.

“Lulu was not invited to any birthday celebrations for the prime minister as a guest,” the spokeswoman added.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “A group of staff working in No 10 that day gathered briefly in the Cabinet Room after a meeting to wish the prime minister a happy birthday. He was there for less than 10 minutes.”

The BBC has learned that Sue Gray, the senior civil servant compiling a report into gatherings on government premises during Covid restrictions, already knew about the 19 June event.

Her findings are expected to be published later this week.

 

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