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THE government’s failure to hand over uncensored evidence demanded by the head of the public inquiry into its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic was dubbed an insult to working people today.
The condemnation by the TUC came as the government was given two more days to hand former prime minister Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages, diaries and notebooks to former Court of Appeal judge Baroness Hallett.
The deadline has been extended to 4pm on Thursday.
The government challenged the demand by saying the documents are irrelevant to the inquiry. However, it has been told that Baroness Hallett will decide what evidence is relevant.
The Cabinet Office is now saying it does not have all the documents, including Mr Johnson’s uncensored WhatsApp messages.
The TUC says the government has serious questions to answer on the missing Covid evidence and accused the Cabinet Office of dragging its heels.
TUC assistant general secretary Kate Bell said: “The Conservative government is refusing to properly co-operate on the Covid public inquiry.
“It’s an insult to working people up and down the country — including the millions of key workers that put their lives on the line during the pandemic.
“The government’s failure to hand over key documents in a timely manner is either a deliberate attempt to delay the inquiry or sheer incompetence.
“Ministers now have serious questions to answer on the status and whereabouts of missing evidence.
“They owe it to every single person in the UK to ensure openness and transparency from those who took the decisions.
“It’s time to learn the lessons of the pandemic. This inquiry is too important for the government delay and obstruct.
“It must co-operate fully and provide all of the evidence.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “It is for the Covid Inquiry itself rather than Conservative ministers to decide what is and is not relevant material for its investigation.”
Downing Street insisted that the government was supplying all relevant material to the inquiry and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisted the government was acting “in a spirit of transparency and candour.
“With regard to the specific question at the moment, the government is carefully considering its position but it is confident in the approach that it’s taking,” he said.
The TUC will be giving evidence when the inquiry begins on June 13.
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