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Welsh Government accused of ‘suspicious and systematic deletion of messages’ during pandemic

27 Feb 2024 3 minute read
WhatsApp on a smartphone.

The Welsh Government carried out “suspicious and systematic deletion of messages” in the Covid pandemic, a representative for bereaved families has said.

The Covid-19 inquiry investigating Wales’ response to the pandemic opened on Tuesday (February 27) with testimonies from bereaved families detailing their experience of the virus.

It is now almost four years since the first lockdown was put in place in March 2020, with schools and businesses shut down to prevent the spread of the virus.

Having questioned UK ministers and officials, Baroness Heather Hallett, who chairs the inquiry, has turned her attention to Wales and the impact on people there.

She opened the inquiry by acknowledging that there had been calls for an independent Welsh inquiry into the pandemic.

The Wales Covid-19 Inquiry Special Purpose Committee was set up as part of a deal between Welsh Labour and the Welsh Conservatives to identify any gaps in what the UK Inquiry says about Wales.

However, bereaved families say the Committee isn’t fit for purpose.

Deleted

Speaking at the inquiry, Nia Gowman, representing the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru group, said government ministers and staff deleted messages against official advice.

Ms Gowman argued that the material disclosed to the inquiry was “belated and dubiously limited” and denial from some within the Welsh Government that they did not use tools like WhatsApp for government “does not ring true”.

She said: “The limited messages that have been disclosed, clearly show WhatsApp and text messages used to discuss government business where they shouldn’t have been.

“They show Welsh Government senior special advisers suspiciously and systematically deleting communications.

“They show special advisers reminding themselves and others that they had agreed to ‘clear out WhatsApp chats once a week’.”

She added that senior members of the government, including Vaughan Gething, the former health minister, had used “disappearing messages”.

Screenshot

In November last year a screenshot of the First Minister’s WhatsApp profile surfaced despite him saying he doesn’t have the app.

He later amended the Senedd Record stating that although he doesn’t use it regularly, WhatsApp is downloaded on his Senedd-issued mobile phone.

Mark Drakeford, former health minister Vaughan Gething and Welsh Government scientific advisers will take part in the latest section of the inquiry which is being heard in Cardiff in the coming weeks.

It will also hear from Dr Frank Atherton, the chief medical officer; Dr Robert Orford, the chief scientific adviser for health; and Andrew Goodall, chief executive of the NHS in Wales.

Tom Poole KC, the leading counsel for this section of the inquiry, told the hearing that some 12,300 people have died due to the virus in Wales, and there had been more than 43,000 Covid-related admissions to hospital.

“That is by any measure a shocking figure and terrible loss of life,” he said.

The inquiry continues.


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Dai Rob
Dai Rob
1 month ago

Lots of people have auto-delete set up on their Whatsapp.

Most of my business clients have that setting. Many sensible people do.

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago
Reply to  Dai Rob

But we are not talking “lots of people” we are talking about government ministers discussing and making decisions in relation to the pandemic and then deleting the audit trail around those decisions.

That’s appalling behaviour, and as bad as anything, Johnson, Hancock, and the Tories did.

No wonder Mark Grayford, Vaughan, Gethyn and the labour party in Wales. Don’t want a Welsh specific enquiry. They have just as much contempt for people in Wales as any Tory.

Andrew Redman
Andrew Redman
1 month ago

If and when proven,ANY politician who is found to have knowingly deleted messages should be severely censured and be considered as NOT suitable for ANY senior posiition in Government. Accountability and transparency are main parts of The Ministerial Code.

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Its called doing a Johnson or a Sunak.

Lets see what was deleted and why, one assumes it will be tackled with the people concerned by the chair?

All governments should ban whatspp across all official devices. Only fully backed up and archived systems should ever be used.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Linked-ed in, Whatsapp, auto-delete, burner phones…sounds like a criminal fraternity…

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Very much so and most if not all of their dirty work done by someone else on their behalf.

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