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Jacob Rees-Mogg dismisses 100 Partygate fines as 'non-story' in TV clash

By Lizzy Buchan

Jacob Rees-Mogg has dismissed news that the number of Partygate fines has exceeded 100 as a "non-story" in a TV clash.

The top Tory claimed the public was no longer interested in lockdown-flouting in Downing Street and Whitehall during the pandemic after the Metropolitan Police announced a further 50 fixed penalty notices had been issued.

Scotland Yard confirmed on Thursday that the total of penalties dished out had doubled since its last update in April, with the latest fines understood to relate to a No10 Christmas party in December 2020.

The extraordinary tally sparked claims Downing Street is now the most-fined address in the country.

Boris Johnson - who has already been fined over his own birthday bash along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak - did not receive a penalty as he did not attend this event.

BBC Breakfast's Naga Munchetty grilled Jacob Rees-Mogg over Partygate (BBC)

Mr Rees-Mogg was challenged over whether the latest fines reflect well on the Government in an interview on BBC Breakfast.

He replied: “I’m afraid I think this is a non-story. The BBC has absolutely loved it, but what is important is we get on with the business of government.”

Present Naga Munchetty asked whether he'd heard how upset people were about rule-breaking in Downing Street when they had obeyed the law.

He replied: “I think people were upset. I think this was an important story in February when it first became known, and that there was great concern and there was a feeling of people who were bereaved particularly about it.

“I also think we need to look in the inquiry at the rules to see if they were proportionate.”

He said the rules were "too restrictive" and it was a mistake to prevent people from seeing their dying relatives.

Boris Johnson has refused to resign after he received a Partygate fine (AFP via Getty Images)

The presenter pressed him on whether he thought it was a non-story because the rules the Government set were too strict.

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “What I’m saying is the fines are a consequence of things we knew in February and it was a story in February and people now know about it and have made their judgment on it and there are other things going on that are more important.”

The PM has repeatedly insisted he won't resign despite being fined by the police for breaking the law.

No10 is braced for further penalties as Mr Johnson is believed to have attended six of the 12 gatherings being investigate by Scotland Yard.

As well as the ongoing Met Police probe, Mr Johnson will also have to survive a potentially excoriating report from senior civil servant Sue Gray, who put her Partygate investigation on hold while the police investigate.

The PM is also facing a third inquiry by the Privileges Committee into whether he misled Parliament with his repeated assurances that Covid rules were followed in No 10.

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Dive Deeper:
More than 100 Covid law breaches on Downing Street a 'non-story', Jacob Rees-Mogg says
BREXIT Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed the Metropolitan Police issuing more than 100 fines over the partygate scandal is…
Police issuing more than 100 partygate fines is ‘non-story’, minister says
Jacob Rees-Mogg played down the importance of the news, questioning whether ‘the rules were right in the first place’.
Jacob Rees-Mogg dismisses 100 fines for No 10 parties as ‘a non-story’ claiming public has lost interest
‘It was a story in February and people now know about it....and there are other things going on that are…
Tory chairman denies mocking Partygate after donating champagne signed by Boris Johnson
Oliver Dowden donated the booze to a charity event in his seat in Hertfordshire - but denied writing a 'crass'…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
PM and Cabinet Secretary not hit with latest partygate fines, No 10 says
The Metropolitan Police has made around a further 50 fixed penalty notice referrals as part of its investigation into lockdown-breaking…
Jeremy Hunt refuses to rule out leadership contest before next election
Former foreign secretary warns Conservatives have "a big mountain to climb" to win another term
Get all your news in one place