UK’s Johnson, Sunak fined over Covid-19 ‘Partygate’ breaches
(Update 1: Adds apology, details)
London, Apr 12 (EFE).- The United Kingdom’s prime minister Boris Johnson and his government’s finance chief Rishi Sunak have been issued fines for breaching Covid-19 rules by attending a social gatherings during a lockdown in the country, Downing Street confirmed Tuesday.
London’s Metropolitan Police has so far issued at least 50 fixed penalty notices to government officials and staff who attended social gatherings during the various stages of lockdown enforced to curb Covid-19 cases in the UK, which entailed harsh restrictions on socializing and free movement.
Downing Street later confirmed that Johnson and Sunak had been fined in relation to a surprise birthday party held for the prime minister on June 19, 2020.
Johnson on Tuesday said he had paid the fine and offered a “full apology.”
“Amongst all these engagements on a day that happened to be my birthday there was a brief gathering in the cabinet room shortly after 2pm, lasting for less than 10 minutes, during which people I work with kindly passed on their good wishes,” he said, adding that it did not occur to him that the gathering would be in breach of Covid-19 rules.
“I understand the anger that many will feel that I myself fell short when it came to observing the very rules that the government I lead introduced to protect the public and I accept, in all sincerity, that people have the right to expect better.”
The Conservative Party leader added that he did not intend to resign over the scandal, which has been dubbed Partygate in the UK.
The surprise party allegation was one of a raft of accusations that members of the Conservative Party government and staff had breached Covid-19 rules on several occasions.
Johnson’s wife, Carrie Johnson, later confirmed to UK media that she had also been issued a fine for breaching Covid-19 rules.
The leader of the opposition Labour Party Keir Starmer on Tuesday called on Johnson and Sunak to resign.
“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign. The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern. Britain deserves better,” a statement on his official Twitter said.
Chancellor of the exchequer Sunak, once tipped to take over from Johnson in the event of the PM’s resignation, has jumped from one controversy to another in the space of a week following reports that his wife, Akshata Murty, held non-domiciled status, meaning she avoided paying UK tax on foreign earnings — Murty has since said she would change her tax arrangements.
The news emerged not long after Sunak’s move to raise taxes and were compounded by separate reports that he remained in possession of a United States green card.EFE