THE UK Government’s education secretary has been unable to say who organised a meeting between Boris Johnson and the civil servant investigating lockdown breaking across Whitehall.
Boris Johnson met with Sue Gray several weeks ago however a briefing war has now started over who arranged it, and what was discussed.
The team behind the Sue Gray report insist the Prime Minister requested a meeting, however Downing Street sources say Ms Gray asked to speak with Mr Johnson. It is also claimed that the publication of photographs within her report was among the issues discussed. This has been denied by Ms Gray’s team.
Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi was unable to say who had called the meeting or what was discussed when he appeared on Sky News and the BBC’s Sunday Morning.
Mr Zahawi insisted the Prime Minister has “never intervened” in the senior civil servant’s investigation and Ms Gray’s integrity is “unquestionable”.
He told the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: “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.”
He later added: “I don’t know who called the meeting.” Asked what was discussed, he also said: “I don’t know.”
Asked if he could not say who called the meeting because he did not ask No 10, or because it did not tell him, Mr Zahawi said: “(I’ll) tell you what the answer is, the answer is very simple.
“The answer is the Prime Minister will never intervene in Sue Gray’s investigation. The Prime Minister wants Sue Gray to basically go wherever the evidence takes her.”
He later told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme that he had not asked No 10 who called the meeting because he did not deem it necessary.
Asked if he had called Downing Street for clarification over the matter, Mr Zahawi said: “I don’t need to because I don’t believe that having a meeting with your senior civil servant is material to the outcome.
“That civil servant is independent in their investigation and has the highest level of professionalism and integrity.
“The Prime Minister has made it very clear that he has never intervened or will seek to intervene or interfere with the investigation.”
The meeting has drawn criticism from opposition politicians, who say it casts a shadow over the impartiality of the report and suggests the Prime Minister has tried to intervene or influence its contents.
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said the meeting was evidence of Mr Johnson’s “sleekit” governmet.
He wrote on social media: “So an ‘independent’ report, yet number 10 calls in the author, for, let us call it a friendly chat, oh really!
“This sums up Johnson’s Govt, sleekit and underhand.
“Johnson and number 10 should never have gone anywhere near Gray until the report was published.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, has called on the Prime Minister to “urgently explain” why the “secret meeting” with Ms Gray took place.