Boris Johnson to hand over 'all unredacted WhatsApp' messages directly to Covid inquiry

2 June 2023, 10:42 | Updated: 2 June 2023, 10:55

Boris Johnson said he will hand over all unredacted WhatsApp" messages
Boris Johnson said he will hand over all unredacted WhatsApp" messages. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson has said he will share with the Covid inquiry all the unredacted WhatsApps he provided to the Cabinet Office, as well as material from his old mobile phone.

In a letter to chairwoman Baroness Hallett, he wrote: "I am sending your inquiry all unredacted WhatsApps I provided to the Cabinet Office.

"I would like to do the same with any material that may be on an old phone which I have been 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.

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Boris Johnson's letter to Covid-19 inquiry chairwoman Baroness Hallett
Boris Johnson's letter to Covid-19 inquiry chairwoman Baroness Hallett. Picture: Boris Johnson

"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."

The Cabinet Office, which is responsible for supporting the PM and the Cabinet, has so far refused to hand over some of the documents, arguing that is has no duty to share "unambiguously irrelevant" material.

Baroness Hallett has demanded that the government hand them over without any amendments.

Mr Johnson's letter to Baroness Hallett continues: "The Government yesterday decided to take legal action.

As the Covid inquiry row continues, Nick Ferrari questions the depth of his listener's concerns

"It was not my decision to do so.

"While I understand the Government's position, I am not willing to let my material become a test case for others when I am perfectly content for the inquiry to see it.

"I am therefore providing the material directly to your inquiry today in unredacted form."

Mr Johnson said he would ask for his unredacted notebooks back from the Cabinet Office and share them with the Covid inquiry if the Government refuses to do so.

He wrote to the inquiry's chairwoman: "I no longer have physical access to my notebooks because they were removed from my office by the Cabinet Office.

"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 can provide them to you directly."

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 ministers prepare for a high-profile legal battle with the inquiry as the Government seeks to challenge the request for Mr Johnson's unredacted WhatsApp messages and notebooks to be submitted.