Skip to main content
Latest 03 June 2023

REVEALED: Good Law Project, like the Covid Inquiry, is refused vital access to WhatsApps by Cabinet Office

William Barton / Shutterstock

The extraordinary standoff between the Cabinet Office and the Covid Inquiry over messages sent by Boris Johnson during the pandemic has been quite a drama to witness. 

We have sympathy with the Covid Inquiry – the public need to know, especially those who lost loved ones, exactly what decisions were made, by who, and how this impacted the way the pandemic was handled. 

But we are not surprised by the refusal by the Cabinet Office to hand over Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages. 

Recently, Good Law Project asked the Cabinet Office for the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s WhatsApp messages. We want to shed light on the decision making behind his ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, introduced by Sunak in 2020, while he was in charge of the Treasury. A scheme now considered to have resulted in more people catching Covid and that may have triggered an increase in deaths

Good Law Project is powered by people across the UKDonate now

We wanted to find out about exchanges between Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock and the Cabinet Office’s permanent secretary Simon Case on the issue of ‘Eat Out to Help Out’. The Cabinet Office’s response to us was that the release of the WhatsApp messages may “prejudice the exercise of functions by the ongoing Covid-19 inquiry”.

So the Cabinet Office is using the Inquiry as an excuse not to answer our freedom of information requests whilst simultaneously refusing to hand over other information to the Inquiry.

In its response to us the Cabinet Office also said: “The Cabinet Office neither confirms nor denies whether it holds information”.

We know the WhatsApp messages exist between Matt Hancock and Simon Case discussing the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme, and Hancock claims to have been in communication with Sunak and his department over this specific subject. 

Government officials also claimed releasing the information isn’t in the “public interest”and may “prejudice the inquiry’s process and ability to examine the facts and lessons learned”.

We don’t accept the response from the Cabinet Office – and will be appealing its decision. 

This secrecy has led Labour’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, to suggest the Prime Minister may “have been complicit in a cover up when he was Chancellor to protect his own PR stunt at the expense of public safety”.

In the meantime it’s been reported that Boris Johnson has bypassed the Cabinet Office and handed over his WhatsApp messages to the Covid Inquiry. The saga continues…  

Good Law Project approached the Cabinet Office and No.10 for comment.

Good Law Project only exists thanks to donations from people across the UK. If you’re in a position to support our work, you can do so here.