Exclusive: PM claims he has changed phone since running the Treasury and did not back up the messages

Rishi Sunak has failed to hand over his WhatsApp messages from his time as chancellor to the Covid inquiry despite the high court ruling that ministers should disclose their communications for scrutiny.

In his witness statement to the public inquiry, seen by the Guardian, the prime minister claimed that he did “not have access” to the messages during the period running the Treasury because he had changed his phone several times and failed to back them up.

The inquiry, which begins hearing evidence on Tuesday for its second stage examining the government’s handling of the pandemic, had requested key communications sent during the pandemic, from the end of January 2020 to the end of February 2022.

Sunak became chancellor in February 2020 and his messages could include details of crucial pandemic decisions made by the Treasury including ‘eat out to help out’, bounce-back loans and the furlough scheme.

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