BORIS Johnson said he takes "full responsibility" for the boozy partying in Downing Street - before putting the blame on junior staff members.

The Prime Minister made the comments in a statement in the House of Commons after the release of the widely anticipated Sue Gray report. 

Johnson began his statement by again apologising for the "short lunchtime gathering" he and Chancellor Rishi Sunak received a fixed penalty notice for. 

READ MORE: The most damning lines of the Sue Gray report - from vomiting to karaoke

The PM also said he felt he had to attend leaving parties for members of staff as it is "one of the essential duties of leadership". 

He then said he was "appalled" by the behaviour of staff, in particular towards cleaning and security staff as noted in the report, and said he had no further knowledge of what happened after he left as he "was simply not there".

Johnson later failed to deny that he asked Sue Gray not to publish the report earlier this week.

The PM told MPs: “I also want to say above all that I take full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch. Sue Gray’s report has emphasised that it is up to the political leadership in Number 10 to take ultimate responsibility and, of course, I do.”

Johnson then went on to say staff were working “extremely long hours” and “doing their best” to help the country in the pandemic, adding to MPs: “I appreciate this is no mitigation but it’s important to set out.”

He added that he was "not [trying] to mitigate or to absolve myself in any way".

The National: Johnson and Sunak were both fined for the PM's surprise birthday bash in the Cabinet RoomJohnson and Sunak were both fined for the PM's surprise birthday bash in the Cabinet Room

The PM said: “The exemption under which they were present in Downing Street includes those circumstances where officials and advisers were leaving the Government and it was appropriate to recognise and to thank them for the work they had done.

“I briefly attended such gatherings to thank them for their service, which I believe is one of the essential duties of leadership and particularly important when people need to feel that their contributions have been appreciated and to keep morale as high as possible.”

As he was heckled, the PM said: “I’m trying to explain the reasons I was there. It’s clear from what Sue Gray had to say that some of these gatherings then went on far longer than was necessary and they were clearly in breach of the rules and they fell foul of the rules.”

Johnson added: “I had no knowledge of the subsequent proceedings as I simply wasn’t there.”

READ MORE: Most damning pictures include Boris Johnson boozing in Downing Street

The PM told MPs: “I have been as surprised and disappointed as anyone else in this House as the revelations have unfolded and, frankly, I have been appalled by some of the behaviour, particularly in the treatment of the security and the cleaning staff.

“And I’d like to apologise to those members of staff and I expect anyone who behaved in that way to apologise to them as well.”

Johnson told the Commons: “But since these investigations have now come to an end, this is my first opportunity to set out some of the context and to explain both my understanding of what happened and also to explain what I had previously said to this House.

“And it’s important to set out that over a period of about 600 days, gatherings on a total of eight dates have been found to be in breach of the regulations in a building that is 5,300 metres square across five floors, excluding the flats.”

He added: “Hundreds of staff are entitled to work and in the Cabinet Office, which has thousands of officials, and now is the biggest it has been in any point in its 100-year history. That is itself one of the reasons why the Government is now looking for change and reform.

“Those staff working in Downing Street were permitted to continue attending their office for the purpose of work and the exemption under the regulations applied to their work because of the nature of their jobs, reporting directly to the Prime Minister.”

Aaron Bell, Tory MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, later asked the Prime Minister if "is there any truth to the suggestion" he asked Gray not to publish the report.

Johnson replied: "What Sue Gray has published is entirely for Sue Gray and it's a wholly independent report."