BORIS Johnson is to make a statement to parliament this afternoon after Sue Gray’s initial report into the partygate scandal was delivered to Number 10.
The Commons authorities said the Prime Minister would address MPs at 3.30pm, in what could prove a pivotal moment for his premiership.
Mr Johnson will go on to address a meeting of the whole Conservative parliamentary behind closed doors in Parliament at 6.30pm.
Rather than just the backbenchers of the more rebellious 1922 Committee, it will include ministers and other MPs on the government payroll to maximise his support.
The Cabinet Office confirmed this morning that it had sent a version of the report by the veteran Whitehall ethics chief to Downing Street, apparently with heavy cuts because of a related Metropolitan police investigation.
A spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Sue Gray has provided an update on her investigations to the prime minister.”
The reference to an “update” suggests Ms Gray does not see the report as her last word on the subject, after being forced to make “minimal reference” to matters being probed by the Met.
Indeed, Number 10 later fuelled suspicion that the full report may never be published by refusing to commit to its release.
Asked if the public will see a fuller report, the PM’s official spokesman said: “That’s one of the things I can’t confirm at this point simply because we need to discuss that with the Met and others about what is suitable.”
But he said there will be no redactions from the version currently submitted to No 10, saying: “We will publish it as received”.
The spokesman said: “The findings will be published on gov.uk and made available in the House of Commons library this afternoon and the Prime Minister will then provide a statement to the House after people have had the opportunity to read and consider the findings.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey urged Mr Johnson to confirm that the “full report will be published as soon as possible”.
“The fact that No 10 is backpedaling on ever releasing the whole Sue Gray report is as disgraceful as it is predictable. This whole shambolic and dishonest Government must be brought down.”
If the Government refuses point blank to publish the report, MPs could try to force it into the open by using a Commons procedure known as a “humble address”.
If the Government resisted, it would have to whip Tory MPs to oppose the release in a vote, which would risk adding to the impression of a cover-up.
The pared back report is not expected to name names or give details of up to eight key parties held in and around Downing Street in violation of Covid restrictions.
However it is likely to look at the apparently lax culture within Number 10.
The Prime Minister denied it would be a “whitewash”, telling the media today: “You are going to have to wait and see both what Sue says and of course what the Met says.”
Speaking to the BBC this morning, Mr Johnson was asked repeatedly if he thought he had done nothing wrong.
He said people would have to wait for the Gray report, but added: “Of course I stick absolutely to what I’ve said in the past,” he said.
BBC Political Editor Laura Keunssberg said there had been “a lot of last minute changes” to the document.
The redactions are likely to infuriate opposition parties, who want the report published in full.
Some Tory MPs have also accused the Met of overstepping their authority by asking for material to be kept secret, despite there being no prospect of a jury trial.
If parties broke lockdown rules those involved would expect a fixed penalty at most.
However the political danger to Mr Johnson is far more severe, as he would be accused of ignoring the very rules he imposed on others, and possibly misleading parliament.
In recent days, the feverish atmosphere among Tory MPs appeared to have eased off, and a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson seemed to be receding.
But the return of the issue to the Commons could spur more MPs to submit letters to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, asking for such a vote.