The argument over transparency between the UK Covid-19 Inquiry and the Government has widened after the chairwoman heard that WhatsApp submissions from senior aides had been redacted.
Hugo Keith KC said the Cabinet Office and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) had both submitted correspondence but had removed elements beforehand.
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) had made a “much fuller disclosure”, he said.
Mr Keith said witness statements had been requested from a wide range of political figures, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, along with former deputy prime minister Dominic Raab, former health secretary Matt Hancock and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove.
Leaders of the devolved administrations have also been issued with requests, including former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
“And all that material has had redactions applied to some of the content.
“The FCDO has supplied the inquiry with potentially relevant WhatsApps from two of its special advisers, many with extensive redactions made on the basis of relevance.
“May we make clear that we expect them to provide unredacted WhatsApp material without delay if, of course, the judicial review claim is dismissed?
“And so we would of course invite the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Office to pay close regard to the position adopted by the DHSC.”
Mr Keith called on the Cabinet Office to “remedy immediately all overdue disclosures” of potentially relevant material from WhatsApp, including from group and one-to-one conservations.
Mr Keith also said there had been a delay in gaining access to a shared Government area stored on Google Spaces.
But he said requests for access had seen “deadlines passed unanswered” before an update from the Cabinet Office was received, containing a schedule of what was stored on the areas and who had access.
He added: “While it is regrettable that so much time has elapsed before reaching this point, we are nevertheless grateful for that schedule.”
The inquiry has asked for the Google Spaces material to be made available without redactions.
“For obvious reasons, we maintain that … the Google Spaces material must be provided to the inquiry without redactions, without a relevancy review being undertaken by the Cabinet Office,” Mr Keith added.
Later in the proceedings, Mr Keith said the Cabinet Office had dropped its initial argument to withhold some information on the grounds that it could damage the principle of collective ministerial responsibility.