UK government fights demand to hand over Boris Johnson’s messages to COVID-19 inquiry

May 30, 2023  -LONDON (AP) — As Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson established an independent public inquiry into his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now the inquiry wants to see, in full, what Johnson wrote to other U.K. officials as the outbreak raged — but the government is fighting a demand to hand over the material.

Inquiry chairwoman Heather Hallett, a retired judge, has asked the Conservative government, now led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to produce full copies of Johnson’s WhatsApp messages and notebooks, after initially being given redacted versions.

Government officials said they only cut out material that was “unambiguously irrelevant” to the investigation, but Hallett wants to be the judge of that. She said “the entire contents of the specified documents are of potential relevance to the lines of investigation being pursued by the inquiry.”

Hallett — who has the power to summon evidence and question witnesses under oath — set a deadline of 4 p.m. (1500 GMT) Tuesday for the government to hand over the documents, covering a two-year period from early 2020.

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