https://www.bbc.com-Image source, Reuters
A photo of Boris Johnson, his wife and 17 staff members in the Downing Street garden with bottles of wine and a cheese board shows them having a “work meeting”, No 10 has said.
The Guardian, which published the image, says the gathering took place in May 2020, during the first lockdown.
At the time, people could only meet one person from another household outside.
In response, No 10 said: “Work meetings often take place in the Downing Street garden in the summer months.”
“On this occasion there were staff meetings following a No 10 press conference,” a spokesperson added.
“Downing Street is the prime minister’s home as well as his workplace. The prime minister’s wife lives in No 10 and therefore also legitimately uses the garden.”
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner urged Mr Johnson to “tell us the truth” about gatherings at Downing Street.
SNP deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald called for a “judge-led inquiry” to determine what happened.
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The photograph shows a gathering of staff in the Downing Street garden following a news conference held by then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock on 15 May 2020, according to the Guardian.
The newspaper pointed out that Mr Hancock used that news conference to warn the public to stick to social-distancing rules despite the warm weather.
He said at the time: “People can now spend time outdoors and exercise as often as you like and you can meet one other person from outside your household in an outdoor, public place. But please keep two metres apart.
“This weekend, with the good weather and the new rules, I hope people can enjoy being outside but please stick with the rules, keep an eye on your family and don’t take risks.”
Responding to previous reports of a 15 May gathering, a spokesperson for Mr Hancock said he left the building at 18:30 GMT after speaking to Mr Johnson in the garden.
“There is no suggestion that Mr Hancock did anything wrong,” his spokesperson added.
Senior civil servant Sue Gray has been tasked with completing a review into a number of alleged gatherings inside government buildings in November and December 2020 – against rules at the time.
Ms Gray replaced cabinet secretary Simon Case, who stepped down from the review after it was revealed he had known about a quiz held in his office.