For 17 months, the FCDO refused to answer our questions regarding Dominic Raab’s WhatsApp use. But, following an intervention from the ICO, they’ve finally come clean.
T he Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has finally admitted that former Secretary of State Dominic Raab did use WhatsApp to conduct important ‘official’ business and also, crucially, that they no longer hold a copy of any of these messages.
This means that WhatsApp messages sent and received by Dominic Raab during his two-year ministerial stint between 2019 and 2021 may never be available for public scrutiny – with potentially serious implications for government accountability and transparency.
For 17 months, the FCDO refused to answer our questions regarding Raab’s WhatsApp use, claiming disclosure could impact the department’s ability to prevent or detect crime. However, following an intervention from the ICO, the UK’s information watchdog, they’ve changed their position and finally come clean.
The full response to our freedom of information request can be read here.
Ministers were warned 2 years ago that their personal phones and emails were vulnerable to hackers and were issued with a ‘Security of Government Business policy’ – explicitly banning the use of private accounts:
The Cabinet Office has now issued guidance that permits the limited use of WhatsApp – despite the concerns raised.
In October 2022, it was revealed that Liz Truss – Raab’s successor as the UK’s Foreign Secretary – had her private messages with officials hacked because she was using her personal phone.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during a break at the United Nations. | CREDIT: FLICKR/NUMBER 10
In response to our Freedom of Information request, the FCDO said the department “followed both Cabinet Office and FCDO guidance on what business can be conducted on WhatsApp”, but because the messages were lost, we may never know what was discussed by Mr Raab.
An official spokesperson for Dominic Raab said: “The Deputy Prime Minister has always followed official advice and security guidance on his government communications.”
▪ Text: This piece was originally published in GoodLawProject and re-published in PMP Magazine on 30 January 2023, with the authors’ consent. | The authors write in a personal capacity.
▪ Cover: Flickr/Number 10. - Dominic Raab. (Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)