Covid: MP Tobias Ellwood defends making speech at Covid-secure event

Covid: MP Tobias Ellwood defends making speech at Covid-secure event

A Conservative MP has defended making a speech to a number of invited guests hours before London entered the toughest tier of Covid restrictions.

Tobias Ellwood – who has called for tighter Christmas restrictions – said he checked with the venue, in central London, that it was Covid compliant.

Tuesday’s event was initially described by the Iraq Britain Business Council as a “Christmas dinner” on its website.

But the council’s president Baroness Nicholson said it was a business event.

The Conservative peer, a former MP who is the prime minister’s trade envoy to Iraq, hosted the event at the Cavalry and Guards club.

She said the venue was Covid compliant and the rules had been “strictly followed” by all those present.

She told the BBC that business gatherings of up to 1,000 people were allowed in tier two areas in certain circumstances if the rules were adhered to.

The Daily Mail, which first reported Mr Ellwood’s attendance at the Iraq Britain Business Council event in Piccadilly, said it was attended by 27 people.

London moved from tier two to tier three on Wednesday morning.

Mr Ellwood, an ex-Foreign Office minister who chairs the Commons defence committee, has urged the government to review plans to relax Covid restrictions for five days for Christmas, “so we don’t begin the new year with a third wave”.

On Monday, he told MPs: “My concern is letting down our guard for five days during Christmas could be very dangerous indeed.”

Mr Ellwood told the BBC he had not been present for the whole event and that he had contacted the venue in advance to confirm it was Covid secure.

Other guests at the reception included a delegation from the Iraqi Embassy.

One of the original photographs appeared to show some attendees standing in small groups taking part in a drinks reception.

The rules for tier two state that alcohol at venues should be served as part of a substantial meal or with table service.

Baroness Nicholson told the BBC that once she became aware that the event have been described as a “party” she immediately asked for it to be clarified.

She stressed it was an important business function.

Asked why it had initially been labelled as a “Christmas dinner” and “party” on the organisation’s website, she said: “I think someone was trying to be cheerful”.

In a statement on its website, the IBBC said “working with the venue this event was fully Covid compliant”.

Baroness Nicholson said that business gatherings were allowed under tier two rules and all relevant Covid rules were followed.

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