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British PM and finance minister to be fined over lockdown parties

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By Reuters
UK issues more than 50 fines for Downing St lockdown parties
UK issues more than 50 fines for Downing St lockdown parties   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

By Michael Holden and Kylie MacLellan

LONDON -Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his finance minister Rishi Sunak are to receive fines for breaching strict coronavirus lockdown rules, the government said on Tuesday, adding to public outrage and resignation demands.

Police have been investigating 12 gatherings at Johnson’s Downing Street office and the Cabinet Office after an inquiry found his staff had enjoyed alcohol-fuelled parties.

The British leader attended a few of the events.

“The prime minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have today received notification that the Metropolitan Police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices,” a government spokesperson said.

“We have no further details, but we will update you again when we do.”

Some of the gatherings took place when people could not attend funerals or say farewell to loved ones dying in hospital because they were following rules set by Johnson’s government.

After the parties were first reported in late 2021, Johnson said all rules were followed, though he later apologised to parliament for attending one event, which he said he thought was work-related. He also said sorry to Queen Elizabeth for another at which staff partied on the eve of her husband’s funeral.

‘MUST RESIGN

Opponents have urged him to quit, saying he misled parliament.

“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign,” said Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party.

The issue had already threatened Johnson’s position earlier this year when a number of lawmakers in his own Conservative Party called for him to quit as public trust plummeted and support for the government shrank.

However, the Ukraine war dampened that initial outcry.

The announcement from Johnson’s office came hours after the police said they had now made more than 50 referrals for fixed penalty notices, or fines, to those who had attended the illegal gatherings at Downing Street or other government offices.

“We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed, this includes continuing to assess significant amounts of investigative material from which further referrals may be made,” police said in a statement.