Support our Nation today - please donate here

Senior Welsh government adviser admits deleting messages in the pandemic

07 Mar 2024 3 minute read
Jane Runeckles. Image Covid inquiry

A senior government official has admitted to setting messages to automatically delete during the pandemic against Welsh Government advice, an inquiry has heard.

Jane Runeckles, a special adviser for the Welsh Government, admitted using the “disappearing messages” function on WhatsApp during the pandemic at the UK Covid Inquiry on Thursday.

Ms Runeckles, who has worked for the Government for almost 20 years and is the most senior adviser to the First Minister Mark Drakeford, ultimately accepted she was using the technology “wrongly”.

This is despite Welsh Government guidance, which said personal WhatsApp accounts should not be used and that using messaging tools was creating “public records”.


Asked if she was aware that using WhatsApp for decision-making was prohibited she said she “knew that I was not in a position to use my personal phone for Welsh Government formal decision-making”.

However, she argued that the groups were only used for “admin purposes and for team morale”.

“This was a point at which my team was no longer in the office, and it was something that we did use to keep in contact and to keep the team together,” she said.

But Lady Hallet, the chair of the inquiry, said: “Isn’t using your personal phone for admin purposes using it for Welsh Government business?

“So, you were using it wrongly?”

“Yes,” Ms Runeckles said.

Dame Shan Morgan, the permanent secretary to the Welsh Government until October 2021, expressed surprise in her evidence to the inquiry that Ms Runeckles had used the disappearing messages feature, which she turned on in the November of that year.


The special advisor said she did not believe there was any evidence of decision-making in the groups when asked why she used disappearing messages.

She added: “This is something I have reflected on a lot, and I think it would be very useful for people who hold the kind of role that I hold in the future for there to be some clear recommendations about this.”

An earlier hearing was told that special advisers reminded themselves and others that they had agreed “to clear out WhatsApp chat once a week”.

It has not been made clear by the inquiry who said this and Ms Runckles was not questioned about the advice.

Responding to Ms Runeckles’ evidence at the Inquiry, Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said: “By deliberately deleting messages that were relevant to Welsh Government decisions, advisors and ministers have robbed bereaved families of the answers they deserve.

“People who lost family members and friends during the pandemic deserve to know how and why decisions were taken, but thanks to actions taken in Welsh Government, they may never get those answers.

“If the Labour government has any level of respect or compassion for those people, they should do the right thing and set up a Wales-specific inquiry so we can get to the bottom of these hugely important issues.”

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.