THE secretive meeting between the Prime Minister and senior civil servant Sue Gray was first suggested by No 10 officials, Downing Street has admitted.

Treasury minister Simon Clarke had insisted on Monday that it was the senior civil servant who “instigated” the meeting in the weeks leading up to her widely anticipated report into lockdown breaches in Downing Street.

But hours later Downing Street admitted it was “No 10 officials” who had requested the meeting earlier this month so that the Prime Minister could discuss the “timings and publication process”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, asked whether No 10 officials told Gray’s team that Boris Johnson would like to meet her, told reporters: “No, this was not at the request of the Prime Minister.

“It wasn’t framed in that way. It was suggested it may be helpful to have that meeting.

“Obviously Sue Gray is independent, it is up to her whether she proceeds with any meeting with regards to her investigation.”

READ MORE: We need to know why Boris Johnson secretly met with Sue Gray

Asked to clarify which of the two parties suggested a meeting could be helpful, the spokesman replied: “No 10 officials.”

Asked why No 10 officials had suggested a meeting, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “There were reports, public reports, that the (Metropolitan Police’s) Hillman investigation might be coming to a conclusion, so it was discussed that it might be useful to give an overview of what Sue Gray and her team were planning in regards to publication and timings – the publication following the conclusion of the report.

“I think those discussions had taken place at official level already.”

Pressed on why Johnson needed to discuss it in person with Gray if the timings had already been discussed by officials, his spokesman replied: “As you would expect for reports like this, it is understandable that there would be a need to share information on things like timings and publication process because obviously there is a process for No 10 and the Prime Minister that would flow off the back of Sue Gray completing her report.

“So that then helps with our planning purposes and things like that.”

Johnson was facing increasing calls to explain why he held the secret meeting with Gray after a Cabinet minister over the weekend said he did not know who had arranged it.

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, repeatedly insisted during a broadcast round on Monday morning that the “meeting was held at the instigation of Ms Gray”.

He also defended Gray from claims attributed to allies of the Prime Minister that she has been “playing politics” ahead of its publication.