Why are Ministers using private emails?

Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and Lord Bethell have all been reportedly using private email accounts or Whatsapp for Government business, discussing matters of national importance - from the spread of Covid-19 in care homes to the award of lucrative Government contracts.

But why would Ministers choose to use personal accounts rather than official channels?

They seem to believe this is a loophole to avoid scrutiny. If politicians think they can evade oversight from the Courts or dodge Freedom of Information requests by using private email and Whatsapp, the question becomes: what have they got to hide?

Government does have a policy in place about the use of private email, but we don’t think it is fit for purpose - not least because it fails to set out when and why it would ever be acceptable for politicians to use their own accounts. And it seems unlikely the policy is being followed in any event, because there’s no evidence that steps are generally being taken to ensure that information held by Ministers on private emails or Whatsapp is recorded on Government systems.

We don’t just think this situation is wrong, we believe it’s unlawful. It flies in the face of Government’s legal obligations to preserve official records, and undermines its ability to comply with Freedom of Information requests and the duty of candour required by the Courts.

We are taking legal action. We have instructed Joseph Barrett and Rupert Paines of 11KBW, and Rook Irwin Sweeney. You can read the Pre Action Protocol letter here.

If we are successful, we could force Government to put in place proper policies to close this accountability gap for good. If you believe that Government business should be conducted transparently, please consider donating to this legal challenge.

Previous Updates

Private emails: It’s not the result we hoped for

This morning the High Court accepted the Government’s arguments about Ministers’ use of unofficial messaging services and channels.
The increasing use by Ministers, Special Advisors, and others, of private email accounts, private and auto-deleting messaging services,…

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Government reveals that none of the Prime Minister’s phone messages prior to April 2021 can be searched

The Government has admitted that none of Boris Johnson’s messages from his mobile phone prior to April 2021 are available, as Good Law Project’s legal challenge to Ministers’ persistent use of private communication channels for…

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Next week in Court

On Tuesday, Good Law Project is back in Court. We’re challenging Ministers’ persistent use of personal email accounts and messaging apps to conduct Government business. 
Our case focuses on two crucial questions: why are Ministers using…

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We were right all along: Information Commissioner agrees Ministers should use official communication channels

Our challenge over Ministers’ use of private emails and messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal has two simple but important questions at the heart of it. Firstly, why are senior Ministers and officials using private…

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BREAKING: High Court gives challenge over Ministers’ use of private email and WhatsApp green light

Our challenge over Ministers’ persistent use of private emails and messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal for Government business has just been given a huge boost: the High Court has granted us permission to proceed…

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Ministers, private emails and security risks: High Court orders urgent hearing

Boris Johnson and at least three Ministers past and present – Matt Hancock, Lord Bethell and Greg Hands – have routinely breached national security guidance by using private emails and messaging apps for Government business. 

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Boris Johnson and three Ministers breached national security guidance over private messages

Boris Johnson and at least three of his Ministers, Matt Hancock, Lord Bethell and Greg Hands, have repeatedly breached their own national security guidance by using private emails and phones for Government business. 
The documents, unearthed…

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BREAKING: Government admits at least 4 Ministers used private emails for Government business

Following the revelations that disgraced former Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Health Minister Lord Bethell used private email accounts for Government business, our lawyers wrote to Government lawyers asking them to confirm they had searched…

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