Notebooks full of observations handwritten by Boris Johnson at the height of the pandemic will be handed over to the official inquiry into his government’s handling of Covid within days, i has learnt.
The 24 hardback A4 pads are at the centre of an extraordinary tug of war between the Cabinet Office and Baroness Hallett’s team over how much highly sensitive government documentation should be released from Whitehall to the inquiry.
The notebooks contain contemporaneous “jottings” made by Mr Johnson during official government meetings in the two years from 1 January 2020, when the first Covid cases were emerging in Wuhan, China.
It is understood that they are in the hands of Mr Johnson’s new legal team and are being examined before entering the “disclosure process”, and are expected to be handed over by 4pm on Monday, the deadline set by Baroness Hallett, the chairman of the Covid Inquiry.
It is not known whether the notebooks will be unredacted, as demanded by Lady Hallett, as vast sections of the notes are understood to be irrelevant to her investigations.
Mr Johnson’s team are cooperating fully with the inquiry disclosure process, a source said.
Existence of the notebooks emerged earlier this week in documents issued by the Covid Inquiry, which is asking for more evidence before opening its first public hearings next month.
The A4 pads are separate to the WhatsApps, emails and other documents sent by Mr Johnson and a series of senior ministers, scientists and officials that the inquiry has requested.
The Cabinet Office is refusing to hand over these messages unredacted as they contain information “unambiguously irrelevant” to Lady Hallett’s inquiry.
The notebooks are not Mr Johnson’s innermost thoughts that might inform his memoirs but rather “dull” annotations to daily meetings, i understands.
However, they are likely to shed light on the then prime minister’s handling of the Covid pandemic, particularly during the first few weeks as the government reeled from the sudden emergence of cases of the virus and agonised over when to impose lockdown.
The notebooks related to Covid meetings attended by Mr Johnson and his top ministers and scientific advisers will be seen as evidence central to the Covid Inquiry.
In response to Lady Hallett’s request for the notebooks, the Cabinet Office initially resisted, saying the “more senior the Government Minister, official or advisor targeted by the Inquiry’s disclosure requests, the more likely it is that their communications will address, in particular, policy matters of particular sensitivity which are unambiguously irrelevant to Covid-19 and which should not be disclosed outside of Government without it being strictly necessary to do so”.2023-05-26T16:43:45Z dg43tfdfdgfd