Government will be ‘robustly transparent where appropriate’ on Covid inquiry, minister vows

Amid an almighty row between the cupboard workplace, the chair of the Covid public inquiry and Boris Johnson over the discharge of the previous PM’s pandemic-era WhatsApp messages, a cupboard minister mentioned the federal government “intends to be completely clear and candid”.

The Covid inquiry chair Baroness Hallett yesterday granted the cupboard workplace a brief extension handy over messages from former PM Boris Johnson. The division now has till 4pm on Thursday to go on the knowledge after the federal government mentioned it didn’t even have the related proof in its possession.

Requested this morning if the cupboard workplace ought to hand over what’s being requested, work and pensions secretary Mel Stride advised Sky Information that the division has already handed over tens of hundreds of paperwork and extra. He added that he’s “completely sure and assured” that the cupboard workplace is adhering to its obligations to the COVID inquiry.

Mr Stride mentioned that the federal government is “ensuring we’re completely, robustly clear, the place it’s acceptable to be so, and I feel that’s an necessary qualification, in order that that inquiry has all the knowledge that it’s proper for it to have.”


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He additionally advised Occasions Radio that there’s a “very sturdy case” for not handing over “unambiguously irrelevant” materials to the Covid inquiry. He mentioned: “It appears to me at the least that there’s a very sturdy case for not simply offering each single piece of knowledge that’s ever requested even whether it is solely irrelevant to what’s being thought-about”.

Forward of the Thursday 4pm deadline, Baroness Hallett has demanded that the cupboard workplace hand over:

  • Unredacted messages despatched and acquired by Boris Johnson between 1 January 2020 and 24 February 2022;
  • Unredacted diaries for Mr Johnson between 1 January 2020 and 24 February 2022;
  • Copies of 24 unredacted notebooks crammed in by Mr Johnson between 1 January 2020 and 24 February 2022;
  • Unredacted messages despatched and acquired by adviser Henry Cook dinner between 1 January 2020 and 24 February 2022;
  • The inquiry needs messages — even from group chats — in regards to the authorities response to COVID, in addition to contact with a listing of sure consultants, ministers, civil servants and advisers.

The shadow worldwide commerce secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds mentioned this morning that the federal government should adjust to the orders that the chair of the Covid inquiry, telling Sky Information that households who misplaced family members need to know the reality.

Mr Thomas-Symonds added that “it’s clear” that Baroness Hallett, who’s chairing the inquiry, is “unimpressed” by what the federal government is saying.

The cupboard workplace final night time maintained its place that it believes the inquiry “doesn’t have the facility to request unambiguously irrelevant info that’s past the scope of this investigation”.

It was additionally revealed yesterday that cupboard workplace officers visited Mr Johnson’s workplace in particular person “to look at notebooks inside the previous few weeks”.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson has mentioned the previous PM has “no objection to disclosing materials to the inquiry” and the choice to “problem the inquiry’s place on redactions is for the Cupboard Workplace”.

Rishi Sunak mentioned yesterday that the federal government is “fastidiously contemplating subsequent steps” — however is “assured in its place”.

In the meantime, ministers will keep away from answering questions in regards to the deaths of care residence residents through the pandemic till after an election, the covid inquiry has introduced. Baroness Hallett revealed that hearings to analyze how the care sector coped through the pandemic won’t start till spring 2025. 

The deadline for a common election to be held is January 2025.