Cabinet Office Accused Of Withholding Boris Johnson WhatsApps From Covid Inquiry

The inquiry has threatened legal action in order to see messages between the former PM and high-ranking figures including Rishi Sunak.
JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images

The government has been accused of refusing to hand over Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages and other evidence to the official Covid inquiry.

In response, the inquiry has threatened legal action to force the information to be provided.

The inquiry wants to see material including 24 notebooks kept by Johnson during the pandemic.

It has has also demanded access to unredacted messages from Johnson to 40 people including Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock, Dominic Raab, cabinet secretary Simon Case and other senior ministers, officials and aides.

But Downing Street has rejected the request, insisting the government was supplying “all relevant” evidence to the inquiry but had no duty to disclose anything “unambiguously irrelevant”.

The inquiry has given the government until 4pm on May 30 to comply with its legal order.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said the fact the inquiry had to resort to invoking its legal powers to compel the handover of documents “suggests that this is a government with much to hide”.

“Rather than fighting legal battles to withhold evidence, it is essential that ministers now comply so the public is able to get to the truth and those responsible can be held to account,” she said.

In a letter to the inquiry, Johnson said it was “unfair and untrue” for it to be suggested he personally had refused to provide the evidence.

“I have always sought to comply with all disclosure requests from the Inquiry and I have already disclosed over 5,000 pages of documents and over 300 pages of emails,” he said.

Johnson told the inquiry he had ditched his government appointed lawyers and was now “instructing new solicitors”.

He made the move after being referred to the police by the Cabinet Office after officials discovered entries in his diary which could suggest more rules were broken during lockdown.

Allies of the former prime minister said Johnson had lost confidence in the objectivity of the Cabinet Office and its leadership.

According to The Times, Johnson’s diary revealed visits by friends to Chequers during the pandemic and new allegations about behaviour in Downing Street.

The diary was being examined by lawyers in order that material could be provided to the inquiry.

Johnson has claimed the decision to refer him to the police was a “politically motivated stitch up” by some in government.

“The events in question were all within the rules either because they were held outdoors or came within another lawful exception. They include regular meetings with civil servants and advisers,” his office said.

Both the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police confirmed they had received documents about “potential breaches of the Health Protection Regulations between June 2020 and May 2021”.


What's Hot