The Government will likely lose its legal challenge against the Covid inquiry, a minister has predicted.
Science minister George Freeman, appearing on BBC Question Time, insisted the decision to launch judicial review proceedings was not a “cynical waste of time” but admitted he thought the prospect of success unlikely.
His comments come hours after the Cabinet Office took the highly unusual step of seeking a judicial review of inquiry chairwoman Baroness Hallett’s order to release Boris Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages and notebooks.
Mr Freeman defended the decision to take legal action while conceding that he personally thought a defeat in the courts was likely.
“In the end, this is a judicial decision. It’ll be taken by the courts. I happen to think the courts will probably take the view that Baroness Hallett, who’s running the inquiry, is perfectly entitled and empowered to decide whatever she wants,” he told the programme.
“I don’t think it is a cynical waste of time at all. The privacy point is relevant. I think it’ll clear up and give people confidence, even if all this achieves is to make very clear that the inquiry will treat with absolute confidentiality anything private and we can get on with it.
“I think it is really important that the rules of this are made clear and I absolutely have very little doubt that the courts will find that Baroness Hallett will decide what evidence she deems relevant, and then we’ll get on with it.
“I think personally it’s quite likely that the courts will rule that Baroness Hallett will decide what evidence, but I think it’s a point worth testing.”