BORIS Johnson has put his successor on the spot by urging the UK Government to pass his private files to the Covid-19 inquiry despite deep resistance in Whitehall. 

With the government and inquiry on a collision course over access to evidence, the former PM handed his unredacted WhatsApp messages and notebooks to the Cabinet Office.

His spokesman said he wanted the Cabinet Office to “urgently disclose it to the inquiry”.

The move piles pressure on Rishi Sunak to forward all the material to inquiry chair Lady Hallett, despite officials not wanting to set a precedent by handing over unredacted files instead of them deciding what is seen outside government.

Labour has alleged there is a “cover-up” to spare the other ministers named in the material embarrassment, including Mr Sunak, who was Chancellor when Covid struck.

Lady Hallett had given the UK Government until 4pm on Thursday to hand over Mr Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages, notebooks and diaries.

The deadline had been 4pm on Tuesday, but this was extended by 48 hours after the Government sought - and was refused - a six-day extension to Monday June 5.

As well as resisting the timetable, the Cabinet Office claimed it didn’t have the material being sought, which covers  the period from January 2020 to February 2022.

It previously objected to the release of “unambiguously irrelevant” material, prompting Lady Hallett to insist the inquiry would decide what was relevant, not officials.

The inquiry also said it could take legal action against the Government to obtain the unredacted files, while the Government hinted it maygo to court to keep them secret.

The Cabinet Office’s late change of tack, to claiming that it didn’t have the material, prompted Labour to suggest there was a cover-up to spare ministers embarrassment.

Then Mr Johnson ensured the Cabinet Office did have the files - and a choice to make.  

His spokesman said all the material requested by the Covid inquiry had been handed to the Cabinet Office and should be disclosed to Baroness Hallett.

He said: “All Boris Johnson’s material – including WhatsApps and notebooks – requested by the Covid inquiry has been handed to the Cabinet Office in full and in unredacted form.

“Mr Johnson urges the Cabinet Office to urgently disclose it to the inquiry.

“The Cabinet Office has had access to this material for several months. Mr Johnson would immediately disclose it directly to the inquiry if asked.

“While Mr Johnson understands the Government’s position, and does not seek to contradict it, he is perfectly happy for the inquiry to have access to this material in whatever form it requires.”

“Mr Johnson co-operated with the inquiry in full from the beginning of this process and continues to do so.

“Indeed, he established the inquiry. He looks forward to continuing to assist the inquiry with its important work.”

Earlier, Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting accused Mr Sunak of being “slippery”.

He told Sky News: “One minute the government says the messages they have are immaterial; the next minute they’re saying they don’t exist. Which is it?”

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said the government intended to be “absolutely transparent and candid” and had already provided 55,000 documents, eight witness statements and corporate witness statements to the UK-wide inquiry.

But he also made clear the Government intended to filter what it gave the Inquiry.

He said: “We are absolutely robustly transparent where it is appropriate to be so. I think that’s an important qualification, so that the inquiry has all the information that it is right for it to have.”

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “We are firmly of the view that the inquiry does not have the power to request unambiguously irrelevant information that is beyond the scope of this investigation.

"This includes the WhatsApp messages of Government employees which are not about work but instead are entirely personal and relate to their private lives.”

The inquiry is due to begin public hearings in two weeks time, starting with sessions on the country's preparedness for a pandemic.

It aims to identify lessons from the government's handling of the pandemic, looking at issues including the use of lockdowns, how decisions were made, the impact of Covid on children and healthcare workers and the protection of the clinically vulnerable.