Cllr Alistair Willoughby, the chair of North East Herts Labour party, has written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak asking his government to cooperate with the inquiry into the government's handling of the Covid pandemic.

Cllr Willoughby says it is "staggering" that Sunak is "refusing to fully-cooperate" with the inquiry. He argues that "what people in North East Hertfordshire want now is to ensure that lessons are learnt".

Cllr Willoughby's letter comes during an ongoing legal battle between the Cabinet Office and the independent inquiry over access to unredacted copies of Boris Johnson's correspondence and documentations.

The inquiry has asked for the copies, from Johnson's time as Prime Minister, but the Cabinet Office has said that it does not have them.

According to the Guardian, government-appointed lawyers, paid for by the Cabinet Office, had previously been given access to the relevant material by Johnson.

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The government has now taken legal action against the inquiry, while Johnson has agreed to personally hand over unredacted WhatsApp messages. He has said that he no longer has access to notebooks requested by the inquiry, but has asked the Cabinet Office to share them.

The full letter sent by Cllr Willoughby is reproduced below. Sir Oliver Heald, the MP for North East Hertfordshire, has been contacted for comment on this story.

Dear Rishi,

People in North East Hertfordshire faced devastating hardship during the pandemic. Lives were lost, families were ripped apart, and we were all asked to make enormous sacrifices for the good of the country. Those sacrifices had real cost – we all missed our loved ones, many of us missed huge events in our families’ lives, and far too many of us missed the chance to say goodbye. Countless more lost jobs, income and any sense of security around their family finances.

What people in North East Hertfordshire want now is to ensure that lessons are learnt. No one believes that the Government response was perfect, and the sad truth is that during a global pandemic mistakes cost lives.

To learn from those mistakes we need real openness and honesty from you and your government as the Covid Inquiry gets under way. It is therefore staggering that you are refusing to fully co-operate.

I am not writing to rehearse arguments about lockdowns, multimillion pound contracts for Tory donors or Downing Street parties. That is for the inquiry. I am simply writing – on behalf of the people of North East Hertfordshire – to insist that you do the right thing. This is too serious for you to hide behind government lawyers and the same old blocking techniques we saw during the partygate scandal.

Do the right thing, co-operate with the inquiry, and let’s ensure we learn all the lessons we can. The people of North East Hertfordshire will accept nothing less.


Cllr Alistair Willoughby

Chair, North East Hertfordshire Labour