Boris Johnson says unredacted Covid WhatsApp messages have been handed to Cabinet Office

WhatsApp messages belonging to former prime minister Boris Johnson have been requested by the Covid inquiry (PA Wire)
WhatsApp messages belonging to former prime minister Boris Johnson have been requested by the Covid inquiry (PA Wire)

Notebooks and WhatsApp messages belonging to Boris Johnson have been handed over to the Cabinet Office so they can be disclosed to the Covid-19 inquiry, a spokesman has confirmed.

The spokesman for the former prime minister said on Wednesday: “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 co-operated 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.”

A row over the levels of disclosure required of the former prime minister was sparked on April 28, when a legal request sent by the inquiry asked for a number of materials, including unredacted WhatsApp messages and diaries belonging to Mr Johnson, from January 2020 to February 2022.

Earlier this month the Cabinet Office resisted the request, which was made under section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005 and which also applies to messages from Mr Johnson’s former adviser Henry Cook.

Whitehall officials were understood to be concerned about setting a precedent by handing over all the requested documents in unredacted form, rather than deciding what material is relevant and should be submitted to the inquiry.

In a ruling last week, Lady Hallett rejected the argument that the inquiry’s request was unlawful and said the Cabinet Office had “misunderstood the breadth of the investigation”.

Refusing to comply with the request would lead to a legal clash with the official inquiry.

The Cabinet Office had been given until 4pm on Tuesday to comply with the order from Lady Hallett’s public inquiry, but that deadline was extended to the same time on Thursday after officials claimed they did not have all the documents demanded.

The demand covers text conversations between Mr Johnson and a host of government figures, civil servants and officials.

The list includes England’s chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty, as well as then-chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Messages with then-foreign secretary Liz Truss and then-health secretary Matt Hancock are also requested, as well as with former top aide Dominic Cummings and then-chancellor Mr Sunak.

The inquiry also asked for “copies of the 24 notebooks containing contemporaneous notes made by the former prime minister” in “clean unredacted form, save only for any redactions applied for reasons of national security sensitivity”.