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Friday, June 02, 2023

What did they think would happen?

And so, in the end the inevitable happened and the obsession with secrecy within government won out - the cabinet office decided to challenge its own public inquiry in the courts.

The Guardian reports that ministers have launched an unprecedented high court attempt to avoid handing over Boris Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages and diaries to the government-commissioned public inquiry into the handling of Covid.

Apparently, despite setting a very wide-ranging remit for the inquiry that allows it to poke into every nook and cranny of government for over a decade, the Cabinet Office believes that there are “important issues of principle” over passing on information that might not be relevant:

The lengthy Cabinet Office letter said the issue to be determined by the high court was “whether the inquiry has the power to compel production of documents and messages which are unambiguously irrelevant to the inquiry’s work, including personal communications and matters unconnected to the government’s handling of Covid”.

It went on: “We consider there to be important issues of principle at stake here, affecting both the rights of individuals and the proper conduct of government. The request for unambiguously irrelevant material goes beyond the powers of the inquiry … It represents an unwarranted intrusion into other aspects of the work of government. It also represents an intrusion into their legitimate expectations of privacy and protection of their personal information.”

The letter was accompanied by a legal document setting out the claim, citing the Cabinet Office as the claimant, the inquiry as the defendant, and Johnson and Cook as “interested parties”.

The decision to challenge the inquiry has already caused disagreement within government. Grant Shapps, the energy secretary, said officials should be given “whatever they want” and that there was nothing for ministers “to be shy or embarrassed about”.

Jonathan Jones, who used to run the government legal department, told the Guardian he thought the courts would ultimately favour Hallett, if the government stuck to arguing on relevance grounds.

As one commentator said on Twitter: The government that set up the COVID inquiry refuses to cooperate with that inquiry and has invoked the Human Rights Act which it wants to dump in order to safeguard personal privacy.

What did officials and ministers think would happen when they set the terms of the inquiry so wide?
I trust Lady Hallett has ALL Johnsons information from the phone he had BEFORE May 2021.
Lady Hallett decides what information is relevant to disclose and thus privacy is protected (unless other 'dirty dealings'
, political damage are found which might be why Sunak is contesting ).
That twitter commentator-- looks like implies the Govnt,Conservatives have got themselves into a mess of hypocrisy on the human rights issue.
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