Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram icons seen on a cell phone. Photo: epa/Andrej Cukic
LONDON: In the dispute over Whatsapp messages from former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a showdown between Parliament’s Corona inquiry committee and the government was averted on Tuesday.
The committee calls for all of the ex-prime minister’s Whatsapp correspondence with government officials from the Corona period and calendar entries in uncensored form. The central government agency Cabinet Office has so far rejected this. According to her, the content of the messages is largely irrelevant to the committee tasked with investigating the government’s actions in the pandemic.
Committee Chair Lady Heather Hallett, a retired Justice who sits in the House of Lords, sees things differently. A deadline she set, which was supposed to expire at 4:00 p.m. (5:00 p.m. CEST) on Tuesday, was initially extended to Thursday. If the government doesn’t hand over the messages by then, Hallett is threatening criminal prosecution.
The Corona Committee of Inquiry is to work through the hesitant and sometimes chaotic handling of the British government in the pandemic. According to death certificates, around 227,000 people died of Covid-19 in the United Kingdom – significantly more than in Germany.
It has been an open secret for a long time that in London itself important agreements within the government are made via Whatsapp. Content from more than 100,000 Whatsapp messages from former Health Minister Matt Hancock only became public in March and had left the ex-minister in need of explanation. A journalist who worked as a ghostwriter for Hancock had forwarded the news to The Daily Telegraph newspaper. The correspondence requested by the committee also includes Johnson’s exchanges with current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who was Finance Minister at the time.
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