The Department for Transport has been forced to apologise after staff held a Christmas Party with 'boozing and dancing' during last year's lockdown.
First revealed by the Daily Mirror, the department confirmed reports that senior civil servants broke lockdown rules on 16 December 2020 just as England went into Tier 3 restrictions.
A spokesperson for Grant Shapps told the BBC that the transport secretary had 'absolutely no idea' about the event and was in his constituency in Hertfordshire on the day.
A department spokesman said: 'Fewer than a dozen staff who were working in the office had a low-key, socially distanced, gathering in the large open-plan office after work on the 16 December, where food and drink was consumed. We recognise this was inappropriate and apologise for the error of judgement.'
COVID rules allowed only two people from different households to socialise outside in public places at the time.
The matter has been referred to the cabinet secretary, the BBC has reported.
Mr Shapps is reported to have said the situation 'fell below the standard he would naturally expect of his private office'.
This is the latest exclusive from the Daily Mirror exposing what appears to have been a culture of rule breaking in Whitehall with several unlawful gatherings reported to have taken place in Number 10 and elsewhere during lockdown restrictions.