The long-awaited Sue Gray partygate report is finally set to be published this week – with the deadline for Downing Street officials to object to being named in it passed.
Reports have suggested the document, expected to be published in the coming days, will feature photographs of illegal gatherings.
It was also reported that top civil servant Simon Case will be particularly hard-hit by the contents, despite the fact he was never fined over the scandal.
Meanwhile, calls for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to explain the purpose of a “secret” meeting with Ms Gray are refusing to let up.
Cabinet ministers failed to shed light on the circumstances of the controversial meeting, details of which first emerged on Friday, as Labour said people “deserve to know the truth”.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi insisted during an interview with Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that he did not know who called the meeting, or what was discussed, while maintaining Ms Gray had “complete control” over what would be published in the document.
International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan also said she did not know who had organised the talks, adding: “I don’t follow anybody’s diaries.”
It’s not unusual
It is understood Mr Johnson and Ms Gray met at least once for an update on the report’s progress while it was being drafted, but a Whitehall source said its contents were not discussed at any point.
The exact nature of the talks remains unclear.
Such meetings would not have been viewed as unusual, the source said, with the aim to take stock of what stage the report was at.
A No 10 source insisted the request for the meeting did not come from Mr Johnson.
It has been reported the idea was in fact suggested by a No 10 official, while the calendar invitation was sent by Ms Gray.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, called on the prime minister to “urgently explain” why the “secret meeting” with Ms Gray took place.
Downing Street insisted Mr Johnson had been “clear throughout” that the report should be “completely independent”.
The Gray report follows the conclusion of a separate inquiry by the Metropolitan Police into COVID rule-breaking events at the heart of government, which saw a total of 83 people receive at least one fixed-penalty notice (FPN) each, for attending get-togethers over eight separate days.
Both Johnsons were later told by police they faced no further action, according to Downing Street, and Mr Sunak has not received an additional FPN.
According to a source of the Telegraph, head of the civil service, Mr Case will come in for “stinging criticism” in the Gray report, as his role meant that “the ultimate responsibility” for the events was his.
But the Cabinet Office has declined to comment on the reports about him.
Did PM intentionally mislead parliament?
About 30 people, including Mr Johnson, have been contacted by the Cabinet Office to warn them of the contents of the document.
Tory MP Laura Farris has suggested she may resign as a ministerial aide at the Foreign Office in order to continue in her role on the Commons Privileges Committee, which is set to investigate whether the PM intentionally misled parliament over partygate.
Ms Farris, who is currently both a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) and a member of the committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour programme the two roles were “incompatible” in the circumstances, and “that has to be resolved this week”.
“One or other will go. If I am to remain on the committee, I will resign as a PPS so that there isn’t that conflict,” she said.
Asked which option she was leaning towards, she said she thought it would be “the right thing to do” to stay on the committee.
The committee’s chairman, Labour MP Chris Bryant, previously recused himself from the parliamentary investigation, having made his views on Mr Johnson’s conduct plain in the media.