Boris Johnson has handed all of his WhatsApp messages and notebooks from when he was prime minister to the Cabinet Office in “full and unredacted” form, and has urged the government to cooperate with the Covid Inquiry “urgently”.
Thousands of the ex-prime minister’s WhatsApp messages he sent at the height of the pandemic, and 24 A4 notebooks full of notes he made at meetings as his government responded to the virus, were requested by Baroness Hallett’s inquiry.
The material has been at the heart of a tug of war between the government and the Covid Inquiry, with the Cabinet Office refusing to comply with a legal order from Lady Hallett to produce the evidence without redactions. The legal demands also include WhatsApp messages sent from Rishi Sunak and other ministers at the time.
The Cabinet Office has refused to hand over the material relating to other ministers, citing privacy concerns and that it would set a harmful precedent in the development of government policy.
But Mr Johnson’s own WhatsApp messages and notebooks have been with his own legal team, which he took on after sacking his government-assigned lawyers last week. The move will put further pressure on Rishi Sunak, as the Cabinet Office is refusing to hand over messages from him and other serving ministers in their unredacted form.
In a statement Mr Johnson’s office said: “All Boris Johnson’s material – including WhatsApps and notebooks – requested by the Covid Inquiry has been handed to the Cabinet Office in full and in unredacted form.
“Mr Johnson urges the Cabinet Office to urgently disclose it to the Inquiry.
“The Cabinet Office has had access to this material for several months. Mr Johnson would immediately disclose it directly to the Inquiry if asked.
“While Mr Johnson understands the government’s position, and does not seek to contradict it, he is perfectly happy for the Inquiry to have access to this material in whatever form it requires.
“Mr Johnson cooperated with the Inquiry in full from the beginning of this process and continues to do so. Indeed, he established the Inquiry. He looks forward to continuing to assist the Inquiry with its important work.”