Therese Coffey's staff drank and ate takeaways ‘late into evening’ during Covid restrictions

Therese Coffey told Robert Peston on ITV that people should avoid "snogging under the mistletoe" thi

Alcohol and food were consumed late into the evening several times at Therese Coffey's Department for Work and Pensions, but there was reportedly "no party atmosphere going on" - Credit: PA

Staff working for the Work and Pensions Secretary drank alcohol and ate takeaways "late into the evening" on a number of occasions while coronavirus restrictions were in place, the department has confirmed.

It comes after the Sunday Mirror reported that political staff and officials frequently drank after work until the early hours of the morning, and ordered food to Suffolk MP Therese Coffey's office at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The newspaper said some of these evenings took place while hospitality and office parties were banned under Covid regulations.

The DWP has confirmed there were times when alcohol was consumed in a work space outside the Cabinet minister's Whitehall office but stressed it took place while work was continuing past normal employment hours.

A source told the PA news agency the desks in the office are socially distanced and there was "no party atmosphere going on".

A series of allegations about rule-breaking parties has dogged the Government over recent days, including two at Downing Street which are being investigated.

A DWP spokesman said: "Throughout the pandemic, DWP officials have followed Government guidance while continuing to deliver vital services for millions of people.

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"Staff worked from home where possible but a core team working directly to the Secretary of State regularly worked from the office, in accordance with the Covid-19 rules as they evolved.

"The team regularly worked late into the evening and on a number of occasions they ate takeaway food and drank some alcohol."

Asked about the Sunday Mirror's suggestion that Ms Coffey gave presents to staff while they stayed late one night over last year's festive period, the spokesman replied: "On one occasion close to Christmas, the Secretary of State gave gifts to her core team, as she does every year."

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