Oris Johnson has been warned he could lose public funds for legal advice if he tries to “frustrate or undermine” the government’s position on the Covid-19 probe.
Cabinet office lawyers told him that “there would be no money left” if he failed to comply with conditions such as releasing evidence without authorisation, the Sunday Times reported.
Mr Johnson was at the center of a dispute as ministers filed a Supreme Court motion to challenge the inquest’s demand for his unredacted WhatsApp messages and notebooks.
The former prime minister vowed to direct all his messages to the official inquiry, bypassing the cabinet office.
The Sunday Times reported extensively on a letter sent by Cabinet Office lawyers to Mr Johnson last week.
“The Funding Offer will no longer be available to you if you knowingly attempt to frustrate or undermine the Government’s position in relation to the Inquiry by your own actions or the actions of others, unless there is a clear and irreconcilable conflict of interest.” .” “A specific point to be addressed,” it said.
They added that the funding “would only remain available” if he met conditions such as sending any testimony or evidence you wish to present to the inquiry to the Cabinet Office for security clearance by the relevant officials.
The Cabinet Office said the letter was “intended to protect public funds” so taxpayer-funded lawyers would not be used for any purpose other than assisting the investigation.
Former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, a staunch ally of Mr Johnson, said it was “not a good prospect for the Government”.
“All evidence presented should be unqualified and not restricted by government censorship in any form,” she tweeted.
Tory donor Lord Cruddas, an outspoken supporter of Mr Johnson, who bestowed his peerage, urged the MP not to be “ransomed” by the threat.
“Don’t worry @BorisJohnson, I can easily fund your legal fees through backers and crowdfunding, it’s easy,” he tweeted.
After the Government launched its legal battle, Mr Johnson wrote to the Inquiry’s Chair, Baroness Hallett, telling him he would send any unredacted WhatsApps he had given to the Cabinet Office.
He said he would like to do the same for the messages on an old phone that he was told he would no longer use after the number was revealed to have been available online for 15 years.
This instrument will be crucial and will include discussions ahead of May 2021, including the three national lockdowns he has ordered.
Mr Johnson told the Chair that he was “not prepared to let my material become a test case for others unless I’m perfectly happy for the Inquiry to see it”.
The Cabinet Office missed Lady Hallett’s deadline on Thursday to hand over the requested material.
But the government department has sought to resist the release of news it says is “clearly irrelevant”.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “This letter from officials simply reiterates that taxpayer-funded lawyers must be used in support of the Covid investigation and for no other purpose.”
“The letter makes it clear that Mr Johnson has a duty to make a candid testimony to the inquiry 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 presenting the evidence he desires.”
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/boris-johnson-nadine-dorries-cruddas-government-high-court-b1085427.html Johnson warned he could lose funding for the Covid inquiry if he ‘undermined’ ministers.