Boris Johnson to hand over crucial unredacted WhatsApps to Covid inquiry

Cabinet Office takes Covid inquiry to court

Boris Johnson has said he is sending “all unredacted WhatsApps” directly to the Covid inquiry.

In a letter to the inquiry’s chairwoman Baroness Hallett, the ex-prime minister said he would “like to do the same” with messages that are on an old mobile phone he stopped using due to security concerns.

The messages on the locked device refer to discussions from before May 2021 and are likely to relate to conversations about the three coronavirus lockdowns ordered in 2020.

It comes as the Cabinet Office is gearing up for a legal showdown with the inquiry as it challenges the demand to hand over Mr Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages, diaries and personal notebooks.

Mr Johnson told Baroness Hallett in a letter sent today: “You have quite properly decided to leave no stone unturned in your search for the truth about government decision making during the pandemic.

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“As I wrote to the inquiry yesterday: ‘I see no reason why the inquiry should not be able to satisfy itself about the contents of my own WhatsApps and notebooks, and to check the relevant WhatsApp conversations (about 40 of them) for anything that it deems relevant to the Covid inquiry.'”

He highlighted that it was the Government’s decision to take legal action, rather than his.

Mr Johnson added that he is “not willing to let my material become a test case for others when I am perfectly content for the inquiry to see it”.

He said: “I am therefore providing the material directly to your inquiry today in unredacted form.”

Mr Johnson said he was sending “all unredacted WhatsApps” provided to the Cabinet Office.

He said: “I would like to do the same with any material that may be on an old phone which I have previously been told I can no longer access safely.

“In view of the urgency of your request I believe we need to test this advice, which came from the security services.

“I have asked the Cabinet Office for assistance in turning it on securely so that I can search it for all relevant material.

“I propose to pass all such material directly to you.”

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Mr Johnson said he no longer has access to his notebooks as they are in possession of the Cabinet Office.

He said: “I have asked that the Cabinet Office pass these to you. If the Government chooses not to do so, I will ask for these to be returned to my office so that I cna provide them to you directly.”

The Cabinet Office is arguing that it should not have to hand over material which is “unambiguously irrelevant”.

The step to launch legal proceedings came after days of public wrangling between ministers and the inquiry, as the Government faced a 4pm deadline on Thursday to hand over the material.

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