Cabinet Secretary Simon Case was initially put in charge of the investigation into alleged Downing Street parties.
When asked to confirm that Mr Case wasn't personally compromised on the matter of Downing Street parties, a spokesperson said: “I think you can be assured that due diligence has been followed on that.”
But just weeks later, it was revealed that a festive gathering was held in his own private office. He then stepped down from the inquiry.
The Cabinet Office admitted: “Staff in the cabinet secretary’s private office took part in a virtual quiz on 17 December 2020. A small number of them, who had been working in the office throughout the pandemic and on duty that day, took part from their desks, while the rest of the team were virtual.
“The cabinet secretary played no part in the event, but walked through the team’s office on the way to his own office. No outside guests or other staff were invited or present. This lasted for an hour and drinks and snacks were bought by those attending. He also spoke briefly to staff in the office before leaving.”
A spokesperson for Downing Street said: “To ensure the ongoing investigation retains public confidence, the cabinet secretary has recused himself for the remainder of the process.”
Police are investigating 12 alleged Downing Street or Whitehall events. One of them took place in the Prime Minister’s Downing Street flat (a claim which has been described by the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie as "totally untrue").
In her interim report, published on 31st January 2022, Sue Grey stated that "At least some of the gatherings represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time."
“Due diligence” had evidently not been followed. The Downing Street spokesperson’s initial claim was misleading.
We approached the Downing Street press office for comment, but no reply.