The British government refused Thursday, June 1 to provide documents requested as part of the public inquiry into the management of the pandemic, saying it wanted to take legal action to establish whether the requests for this inquiry are justified or not.
Former magistrate Heather Hallett, who is leading the public inquiry into the pandemic, had given the Cabinet Office, the government services, until Thursday afternoon for all the required elements to be given to her. The Cabinet Office refused to comply and said on Thursday, an hour after the deadline set, that it had “requested leave to launch a judicial review”.
“Important questions of principle”
The government says it wants to ensure that investigators have “the power to demand documents and messages that are unambiguously unrelated to the work (carried out under) the investigation, including personal communications and unrelated questions with the management of the Covid by the government”. Those responsible for the public inquiry want in particular to have Whatsapp exchanges between Boris Johnson and a number of political and health officials.
Boris Johnson (forced to resign in the summer of 2022 after a series of scandals including parties organized in full confinement) announced on Wednesday that he had handed over the requested files to the government for them to be sent to investigators. However, the government believes that requiring such documents raises “important questions of principle” and affects “the good conduct of the government”.
“Current and former individuals, civil servants, ministers and departments should not be required to provide material unrelated to investigative work,” the government said. “It represents an unwarranted intrusion into other aspects of government work” and an invasion of “privacy”.
For his part, Boris Johnson assured that he was ready to directly provide the messages which concern him within the framework of the public inquiry. “I see no reason” why investigators “shouldn’t be able to investigate the content of my own (exchanges on) Whatsapp and notes,” he wrote in a letter to Ms Hallett on Thursday. “If you would like to receive these documents immediately, please let me know where and how you would like me to send them to you.”
The shadow of “partygate” has returned to torment Boris Johnson after the Cabinet Office reported to the police new elements on possible breaches of the rules enacted to deal with the Covid. The former prime minister called the accusations ‘completely absurd’ and said he had been cooperating ‘fully’ with investigators from the start.
This article is originally published on lefigaro.fr