Boris Johnson will not be restricted by the Government on what he can say to the Covid-19 inquiry, although he has been warned he should ensure he uses public funding for legal advice from appropriately, said a senior minister.
Robert Jenricks’ comments on Sunday come after it was reported that Cabinet Office lawyers had told Johnson he could lose funding if he tried to thwart or undermine the government’s position on the inquiry.
The former prime minister was told the money would stop being available if he breached conditions such as disclosing evidence without permission, according to The Sunday Times.
Johnson has been at the center of a row as ministers launched a High Court bid to challenge the request for inquiries into his unredacted WhatsApp messages and contemporary notebooks. He said he would send all his messages directly to the official inquiry, bypassing the Cabinet Office.
Jenrick told Skys Sophy Ridge on Sunday that Johnson in whose administration he served and supported for the Conservative leadership was free to send his documents or WhatsApp messages to the inquiry and make any statements he wished. .
But the Immigration Secretary added: “There is absolutely no sense the Government will restrict what Boris Johnson wants to say, but if you are using taxpayers’ money you obviously have to make sure you are using them in a way appropriate.
He denied there were fears in Number 10 that Rishi Sunak’s messages could reveal a plot to bring down Johnson, insisting it would not be reasonable or reasonable to hand over any documents or messages to ministers if deemed unrelated to the pandemic.
I can’t think of a situation where a court would request documents or messages that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter of the case or investigation. I mean, for example, things to do with a public official or a politician’s private life that have nothing to do with the investigation, he said.
Jenrick, a former lawyer, said the normal way to go is to set reasonable parameters and not ask for completely unrelated things.
He insisted the government had the highest regard for inquiry chair Heather Hallett and was not asking for special treatment. I hope this can be resolved even before the case goes to court, he added.
A former director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has called for rules on the use of WhatsApp in government and said ministers should think twice before voicing their views.