Covid inquiry orders full disclosure of Boris Johnson’s diaries
The public inquiry into Covid-19 has issued a legal notice ordering the Cabinet Office to hand over unredacted versions of Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages and diaries during the pandemic.
Lady Heather Hallett, chair of the inquiry, made the announcement on Wednesday, a day after it emerged that Johnson had been referred to the police for possible breaches of the new coronavirus regulations under his prime ministership.
Johnson made it clear in the letter to Hallett that he had not been shown the inquiry’s unredacted request for information, or that the Cabinet Office had refused to hand it over.
He said any suggestion he had not made himself was “unfair and untrue”.
He also said he had fired government-appointed lawyers who represented him at the public hearing, who highlighted entries in his diary as prime minister that Cabinet Office officials had referred to police last week.
The Times reported on Tuesday that diary entries showed Johnson’s friends and family visited Downing Street and Chequers, the country residence used by UK prime ministers, during the outbreak.
Hallett disclosed that Covid’s public inquiry into Johnson’s unredacted messages, notebooks and diaries from the time brought him under Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005.
Hallett rejected the Cabinet Office’s argument that the inquiry request was unlawful, arguing that it had “misunderstood the scope of the inquiry” and that the material requested was “of potential relevance”.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said documents that were “clearly irrelevant” should not be released to the inquiry, but added that the government would “carefully consider our next steps”.
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labor party, called on the government to comply with the request for an inquiry “so that the public can get the truth and those responsible can be held accountable”.
Johnson, meanwhile, said he had instructed new attorneys to represent him at the trial. His office said claims of another breach of the Covid rule were “completely untrue”.
According to Johnson’s team, the events discovered in his diary, which took place between June 2020 and May 2021 at Number 10 and Checkers, were within the rules.
His sister Rachel, a broadcaster and author, told LBC: “As far as I know, all the rules were followed when I went to Checkers.”
Johnson became the first prime minister to be found guilty of a crime in office after attending a Downing Street birthday party in June 2020 that was found to have breached coronavirus rules.
With Johnson’s allies outraged that the Cabinet Office handed entries from Johnson’s diary to the police, Downing Street rejected claims of a politically motivated stitch-up by the former prime minister.
But a Tory MP close to Johnson said there was a vendetta against him in some parts of the government, saying: “It’s almost as if they’ve seen him buried and they keep going back to see if the body is still cold.
“I hope the police will look into it quickly and move on. . . But this smells like an opportunity to prolong the Privileges Committee investigation.”
Johnson is being investigated by the House of Commons Privileges Committee over whether he deliberately misled parliament over closed parties in Downing Street.
The latest developments are likely to “slow down the release of the report by a week or two,” said one person close to the privilege committee.
Referring to the new information on Johnson about the events in Downing Street and Checkers referred to the police, the person added: “At the moment it is only allegations. We must be careful before drawing any conclusions from it. . . The question will be which of these meetings were work meetings.”