Boris Johnson’s Covid WhatsApps from old phone still not handed to inquiry

It is understood the phone is still in the former prime minister's possession.

WhatsApp messages on Boris Johnson’s old mobile phone have still not been handed over to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

Downing Street said on Monday “all requisite material” had been given to the inquiry after the government lost its bid to prevent their release.

The Cabinet Office had until 4pm on Monday to comply with a High Court ruling to hand over Johnson’s unredacted notebooks, WhatsApp messages and diaries from his time in No 10.

Inquiry chairwoman Baroness Heather Hallett had demanded the documents relating to Boris Johnson’s time in No 10. / Credit: PA

But the PA news agency understands that the former prime minister’s old phone, which contains correspondence from pre-May 2021, is still in his possession.

Government officials continue to help him to try to securely retrieve the messages on the device, PA reports.

Johnson was advised to stop using the phone and not access it again on security grounds while serving as Britain’s leader in May 2021, after it emerged his number had been freely available online for 15 years.

The device he used during crucial periods of the coronavirus pandemic likely contains messages relating to the ordering of three lockdowns in 2020.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “In-line with the process set out by the court, the Cabinet Office has provided all of the requested material to the Inquiry.”

The government handed over the rest of the documents after losing a legal challenge.

The former prime minister is said to still have his old device in his possession. / Credit: PA

It had fought the request from inquiry chairwoman Baroness Heather Hallett to release them, arguing it should not have to hand over material that is “unambiguously irrelevant”.

But the Cabinet Office’s argument was last week dismissed by Lord Justice Dingemans and Mr Justice Garnham, who said the fact an order for material would produce “some irrelevant documents” did not “invalidate” it or mean it “cannot be lawfully exercised”.

They said Lady Hallett should be able to examine the documents and if she agrees they are “obviously irrelevant” to her inquiry, she will return them.

Johnson told Lady Hallett last month that he would “like to” pass messages that are on the old phone to the inquiry.

He was believed to have written to the Cabinet Office at the time to ask whether security and technical support could be given to help access its contents without compromising security.

Johnson’s team has been contacted for comment.

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