Rishi Sunak today took a fresh swipe at Sir Keir Starmer's attempt to recruit Partygate report author Sue Gray as the pair clashed in the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister noted how the Labour leader is trying to make Ms Gray, a former senior civil servant, his chief of staff.

Sir Keir's efforts to poach the ex-top mandarin has caused a political storm due to her past role in investigating Covid rule breaches in Downing Street.

Allies of ex-PM Boris Johnson have claimed the revelation that Ms Gray is joining Labour 'invalidates' her Partygate probe and 'blows apart' the idea of civil service impartiality.

Mr Sunak raised Ms Gray's prospective role in Sir Keir's top team after the Labour leader highlighted how the PM had been handed a police fine as part of Partygate.

In fiery exchanges during Prime Minister's Questions over the Conservatives' record on tackling crime, the Labour leader told Mr Sunak: 'The only criminal investigation he's ever been involved in is the one that found him guilty of breaking the law.'

Noting his own background as a former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Keir added: 'I have prosecuted countless rapists and I support tougher sentences.

'But you have to catch the criminals first and when 98 per cent of rapists are not even being put before the court, that's a massive failure on the Government.'

But the PM shot back at Sir Keir over the Labour leader's jibe at the Fixed Penalty Notice handed to him following the Metropolitan Police's own investigation into Partygate.

Mr Sunak was among those fined for attending a 56th birthday bash for Mr Johnson in No10 in June 2020, at a time when he was Chancellor.

The PM this afternoon reiterated that he apologised for the Covid rule breach and insisted he had 'no advanced knowledge' that the gathering was happening.

'Let me just address the issue he raised,' Mr Sunak told Sir Keir.

'I said at the time I respected the decision the police reached and I offered an unreserved apology.

'But, for the avoidance of doubt, there was a full investigation by a very senior civil servant.

'The findings of which confirmed that I had no advanced knowledge about what had been planned, having arrived early for a meeting.

'But he doesn't need me to tell him that, he's probably spoken to the report's author much more frequently than I have!'

Mr Sunak and Sir Keir's clashes at PMQs came ahead of a four-hour televised grilling for Mr Johnson by the Commons' Privileges Committee, which is investigating whether the ex-PM misled Parliament by denying Covid rules were broken in No10.

Ms Gray resigned from the civil service earlier this month in order to take up the role as Sir Keir's chief of staff.

But her acceptance of the job is still subject to approval by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which could suggest a number of restrictions on her employment by Labour.

Mr Sunak received a further Fixed Penalty Notice in January when he neglected to wear a seatbelt in a moving car while filming a social media video.

Read more

2023-03-22T13:39:46Z dg43tfdfdgfd