Sunak says he has no Covid-era WhatsApps as he changed phones ‘multiple times’

Rishi Sunak confirmed that his pandemic-era WhatsApps were not available to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, saying he had changed his phone “multiple times” in recent years and not backed up his messages.

The Prime Minister, who served as chancellor during the coronavirus crisis, said he was never advised to save the exchanges, despite key conversations about the Government’s response taking place via the messaging app.

He argued he was not a “prolific user” of WhatsApp anyway, and that anything of significance would have been recorded officially.

It came after his Downing Street predecessor Boris Johnson also failed to provide the official probe with any communications from February to June 2020, a critical period in the early handling of the outbreak.

During his appearance on Monday, Mr Sunak was grilled on whether he had access to any of the WhatsApps he sent during the crisis.

He replied: “No, I don’t, I’ve changed my phone multiple times over the past few years and, as that has happened, the messages have not come across.

“As you said, I’m not a prolific user of WhatsApp in the first instance – primarily communication with my private office and obviously anything that was of significance through those conversations or exchanges would have been recorded officially by my civil servants as one would expect.”

Lead counsel Hugo Keith KC asked Mr Sunak whether no-one recommended he retain his WhatsApp communications for the inquiry once Mr Johnson announced its establishment in May 2021.

“I don’t recall anyone in my office making that recommendation or observation to me at the time,” the Prime Minister replied.

Ahead of his appearance last week, Mr Johnson told Lady Hallet’s inquiry that technical experts had not been able to retrieve WhatsApp messages from his old mobile phone between January 31 and June 7 – a time period spanning the early days of the pandemic and most of the first lockdown.

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