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HomeEconomyBoris Johnson risks losing legal funding for Covid research, Whitehall warns

Boris Johnson risks losing legal funding for Covid research, Whitehall warns


Boris Johnson has been warned by Whitehall that he could lose government-funded legal support if he undermines the government’s position on the Covid-19 investigation.

The cabinet office has written to Johnson to say it could withdraw legal advice it provided to the former prime minister if he undermines the government’s handling of the investigation.

“The funding offer will no longer be available to you if you knowingly attempt to frustrate or undermine the government’s position regarding the investigation, whether through your own actions or the actions of others, unless there is a clear and irreconcilable conflict of interest in any particular point at issue,” the letter said.

The former British prime minister last week bypassed the Cabinet Office by handing unredacted May 2021 WhatsApp messages directly to the inquiry, even as the government has challenged the process legally.

The Cabinet Office said some of the material demanded by the inquiry, led by Lady Heather Hallett, was “unequivocally irrelevant” and is seeking to challenge the demands through a judicial review.

But Johnson said he was “unwilling” to let his material become “a test case for others” and gave the material directly to the research.

His allies believe the government is taking legal action because serving ministers — including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak — could also be asked to hand over their unredacted messages at a later date.

The letter from the Cabinet Office, extracts of which have been published in the Sunday newspapersaid funding for legal support “would only remain available” if Johnson met certain conditions, including sending the Cabinet “any testimony or evidence you intend to provide to the investigation so that it can be reviewed by the appropriate officials be checked”.

Johnson has so far not provided any WhatsApp messages predating May 2021 because he purchased a new phone in April 2021 following a security breach. He has offered to hand over material on that device if security experts deem it safe to do so.

In a statement, the Cabinet Office said the letter was not an attempt to dissuade Johnson from fully supporting the investigation.

The Cabinet Office said: “This letter from officials simply reiterates that taxpayer-funded lawyers should be used to support the Covid investigation and for no other purpose.

“The letter makes it clear that Mr. Johnson has a duty to honestly witness the investigation independently and without reference to the views of the current administration.

“This letter was intended to protect public funds. It in no way prevents Mr. Johnson from giving whatever evidence he wants.”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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