Covid inquiry threatens legal action against Cabinet Office over 'redacted WhatsApps and diaries belonging to Boris'

24 May 2023, 14:21 | Updated: 25 May 2023, 03:05

Boris Johnson is at the centre of the row
Boris Johnson is at the centre of the row. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

The Covid inquiry is threatening legal action against the Cabinet Office over the release of un-redacted WhatsApp messages and diaries belonging to Boris Johnson.

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A row has broken about between the official inquiry and the Cabinet Office centring on redactions made to material that has been handed over.

It comes after Mr Johnson faced more questions about alleged breaches of lockdown rules revealed by his ministerial diary. Mr Johnson described the claims as a "stitch-up".

Baroness Heather Hallett, the former Court of Appeal judge who is chairing the inquiry, said: "The entire contents of the specified documents are of potential relevance to the lines of investigation being pursued by the Inquiry."

The redacted documents are "WhatsApp communications recorded on devices owned or used by the former Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP and also an adviser named Henry Cook, comprising exchanges between senior government ministers, senior civil servants and their advisers during the pandemic".

The chairwoman also made reference to "Mr Johnson's diaries for the same period, together with notebooks that I have been told contain his contemporaneous notes".

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Boris Johnson has hit out at claims about documents that will make up part of the Covid inquiry
Boris Johnson has hit out at claims about documents that will make up part of the Covid inquiry. Picture: Alamy

It comes after Mr Johnson "threatened to sue" the Government after the Cabinet Office referred the former PM to the police over allegations he broke Covid rules by hosting friends and family at Chequers during lockdown.

Chequers is the Prime Minister's countryside mansion.

He was said to have been furious about the move, with allies suggesting that it had been "politically motivated".

Sources close to Mr Johnson said he had already been given legal advice that none of the events in question were in breach of Covid rules, MailOnline reported.

Read more: 'He worshipped Boris': Caller's father died during COVID without loved ones around him as Partygate continued

WhatsApp messages are among the documents
WhatsApp messages are among the documents. Picture: Alamy

A friend of the Uxbridge MP claimed he was "seriously considering" taking legal action.

The material emerged during preparations for the inquiry.

Separately, Mr Johnson is still awaiting the findings from the House of Commons' Privileges Committee, which is investigating whether he misled Parliament over "partygate".

A spokesperson for Mr Johnson said: "The assertion by the Cabinet Office that there have been further COVID rule breaches is totally untrue.

"Lawyers have examined the events in question and advised that they were lawful.

"No contact was made with Mr Johnson before these incorrect allegations were made both to the police and to the Privileges Committee. This is both bizarre and unacceptable.

"For whatever political purpose, it is plain that a last ditch attempt is being made to lengthen the Privileges Committee investigation as it was coming to a conclusion and to undermine Mr Johnson."