Britain's policing minister has appeared to back the view of two British cabinet colleagues in stating that the issuing of partygate fines is evidence that police believe the law was broken in Number 10.
British justice secretary Dominic Raab and international trade secretary Anne Marie Trevelyan both accepted this week that Covid-19 rules had been breached in Downing Street after the first batch of fines were ordered in relation to the Metropolitan Police probe.
Speaking on Friday, Kit Malthouse, a minister in the British Home Office and Ministry of Justice, said it is fair to say a fixed-penalty notice (FPN) signals police feel an unlawful act has been committed.
UK Labour leader and former director of public prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer said the fines mean “we now know there was widespread criminality”.
The British prime minister has so far dodged the question over whether receipt of a fine would equate to lawbreaking, with No 10 refusing to be drawn into the discussion until the inquiry has finished.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Malthouse said: “A fixed-penalty notice means police have a reasonable belief that you’ve broken the law – you still have a right to challenge it if you want.
“Having said that, the police practice is not routinely to release the names of those who receive fixed penalties, and I don’t see why that rule should be waived for those people who may or may not be in receipt of it in Downing Street.”
Mr Malthouse, who attends cabinet, said he has not personally received a fine in relation to the Scotland Yard probe, and he would declare it if he did.
Around 20 FPNs were expected to be handed out in the first tranche, but it is not believed Mr Johnson is among the recipients.
Mr Malthouse, a close ally of Mr Johnson, acknowledged that while police do not routinely name those who are issued with fines, the situation is “different” for politicians.
“If I got a fixed-penalty notice, I would tell you,” he told LBC.
It comes after Mr Raab, the deputy prime minister, said government ministers will “inevitably” have to disclose it if they are fined.
No 10 has so far only promised to confirm if Mr Johnson or cabinet secretary Simon Case are given a fixed-penalty notice.
Mr Malthouse was asked on LBC whether, as someone who has known the prime minister for two decades and who previously served as one of his deputy mayors in London, Mr Johnson is likely to confirm if he received a fine.
Mr Malthouse replied: “It is a hypothetical question, but I think if he did, he probably would, yes.”
During his appearance at the liaison committee on Wednesday, Mr Johnson told senior MPs he was “sure you would know” if he had been fined as part of this week’s FPNs.
Mr Starmer has called for Mr Johnson’s wife, Carrie Johnson, to be named if she receives a monetary penalty in relation to the review of claims of lockdown parties in Downing Street.
The opposition leader told Sky News he agrees with the “general argument” that families of MPs should not be dragged into political rows.
But he added: “There’s a huge difference between the situation of the wife of the prime minister breaking the rules made by the prime minister and any other situation.”
When asked if he agrees Mrs Johnson should publicly declare any possible punishment, Mr Malthouse said that is a matter for her.
Mr Starmer, speaking later during a visit to Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, said it is “very important” that the country knows which senior staff receive fines.
“I’m not so concerned about some junior members of staff, but I am concerned about those in and around the prime minister who made the rules and then allowed the rules to be broken in their own workplaces, in Downing Street,” he said.
“In Downing Street, of all places, there was widespread criminality and breaking of the rules that applied to everybody else.”