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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has reportedly failed to hand his WhatsApp messages from his time as chancellor over to the Covid Inquiry.
According to The Guardian, Mr Sunak has not provided the inquiry with his messages, despite the fact that the high court ruled for ministers to do so.
In his witness statement to the public inquiry, seen by The Guardian, Mr Sunak reportedly claimed he did “not have access” to the messages in question, because he had changed his phone several times and had not backed up his messages.
Evidence will be heard for the inquiry on Tuesday, and is set to examine the Government’s handling of the pandemic.
Ahead of this, ministers were requested to provide key communications sent during the pandemic, from January 2020 to February 2022.
Mr Sunak became PM in October 2022, but was previously appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer from 13 February 2020 to 5 July 2022.
This timeframe means that his WhatsApp messages could hold crucial details about the pandemic, including how decisions around his Eat Out to Help Out scheme were made and the furlough scheme.
i revealed last week that “bombshell” evidence on decisions taken by Mr Sunak during the pandemic is set to be heard in the inquiry over the coming weeks.
Mr Sunak gave the go-ahead for his Eat Out To Help Out scheme in summer 2020 without the knowledge of the Department of Health under Matt Hancock, evidence to the Covid Inquiry is understood to claim. At the time the department was leading the fight to contain a fresh wave of the virus.
Lady Hallett’s inquiry is also expected to hear how Boris Johnson presided over an extraordinary breakdown at the top of his government at the height of the pandemic.
A source close to Mr Sunak said, however, that the Department of Health did know about the Eat Out To Help Out scheme ahead of the announcement.
Insiders told i this and other “bombshell” evidence is set to define Mr Johnson’s prime ministerial legacy and could undermine Mr Sunak’s campaign to win a fifth term for the Conservatives in 2024.
Matt Fowler, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, told The Guardian: “If Johnson and Sunak don’t provide the inquiry with the messages it has asked for, they need to face the full force of the law.
“The lengths they are going to cover up these WhatsApps … are absolutely obscene.
“If half as much effort was put into learning from the mishandling of the pandemic as has been put into hiding critical evidence from the inquiry, we would be in a better position when the next pandemic comes.”