July 1985; Gordon Brown, “The Leaker” Sets The Standard For Jim Murphy And Fellow Labour Politicians To Follow
During his long years in opposition Brown became a regular conduit for publicising confidential documents leaked to him by civil servants and he was admired for the way he could put them to good use when attacking the Conservatives. In distributing his leaks and tip-offs among the political correspondents of Westminster, he had made some friends for life. Once Labour were in power, he demonstrated an equally deft touch when making use of the journalists he could trust. The press build-up his Budgets and financial statements was always carefully manipulated to prepare the ground for any changes which he intended to make and Brown has continued as Prime Minister to be Labour’s leading exponent of institutionalised leaking.
The master leaker had the Tory Damien Green arrested on allegations of the same thing whilst he was Prime Minister. Yet at the time he was interviewed by the BBC’s Frank Bough in July 1985 he just couldn’t avoid gloating and smirking about the leaks he had orchestrated, received and passed on through his network of minions who were always eager to do his murky deeds. Many people will have cause to have hatred in their hearts for him. He has departed the scene as a politician, but he leaves a foul stench that will linger for years to come. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIrweIqqsOc
December 2008; The Damien Green Fiasco – Scotland Yard Determined To ‘Motor On’ In Tory Leak Case
The Telegraph has learnt that senior officers met with lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service last week to discuss possible charges against Damian Green and Christopher Galley, who are under investigation over allegations of leaking confidential information. MPs on the all-party Home Affairs Committee are preparing to launch their own investigation into the affair, in a move which will intensify pressure on the Metropolitan Police and on Michael Martin, the Commons Speaker. Mr Green, the Tory immigration spokesman, was questioned for nine hours and had his homes and Commons office searched 10 days ago. He is suspected of receiving leaked documents.
Ten days earlier Mr Galley, 26, an assistant private secretary at the Home Office, was arrested at his home at dawn and taken to Paddington Green, the most high security police station in Britain. He is suspected of leaking the information. Senior officials at Scotland Yard, who have been accused of being heavy handed, denied yesterday that they are “backtracking” over their actions or seeking to drop the case. They remain satisfied that they acted lawfully and proportionately, even though there is understood to have been disagreement at the highest level within the Met over whether Mr Green’s arrest should go ahead.
Sir Paul Stephenson, the Acting Commissioner, was told of the plan in advance and challenged Bob Quick, the head of anti-terrorism at the Yard and the man who ordered the arrest, over the wisdom of the move. Sir Paul has now called in one of Britain’s most senior police officers to scrutinise his force’s handling of the operation. Ian Johnston, chief constable of the British Transport Police and chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers crime committee, will produce an interim report on the case on Tuesday and a full report the following week. One source said: “We are not looking to drop this action. If Ian Johnston says everything was handled properly, then we will motor on. We are confident that we have acted legally and the investigative team is happy it took proportionate action. But a fresh pair of eyes [Ian Johnston] may see it differently to others who are close to the case.”
Mr Martin’s position was eroded yesterday when a Labour MP called for him to quit over the police raid. Bob Marshall-Andrews said that Mr Martin had lost the confidence of the House after he allowed police to enter the Commons without a search warrant, and should now go. Mr Marshall-Andrews, who is the first Labour MP to call for the Speaker’s resignation, said that Mr Martin’s handling of the affair represented a “deplorable breach of his duties”. The Home Affairs Committee investigation, revealed today, is set to be announced this week. It is understood the official in charge of security for the House of Commons, Jill Pay, the Serjeant at Arms, will be called to give evidence, as will senior Scotland Yard officers including Sir Paul and Mr Quick.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, and Sir David Normington, her permanent secretary, are also expected to be called. Mr Martin is not expected to be called, but it is understood his role in the affair will also come under scrutiny. Commons officials could have demanded that police had a warrant before they searched Mr Green’s parliamentary office, but allowed officers to proceed without one – a decision which has caused widespread anger among MPs. Mr Martin has announced plans for a separate all-party inquiry into the “Greengate” affair, but it will be launched only after the police have concluded their investigation, which may take months. Mr Green has been bailed until February.
Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, said he feared there could be a long delay before the findings of the formal parliamentary inquiry were known. He said: “We welcome the fact that the Speaker is setting up an inquiry through a motion put forward by Harriet Harman, but we are concerned by the fact that it is to be delayed until after possible criminal proceedings come to an end. This is all required rather more urgently than the motion allows.” In a statement to the Commons last week, Mr Martin expressed “regret” that police officers were admitted to the Palace of Westminster without his personal authority. He claimed that officers did not inform Ms Pay that she could decline their request for consent to carry out a search. However, in a letter to Ms Smith, which was made public last week, Mr Quick, an Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard, appeared to contradict the Speaker’s statement.
Scotland Yard has said that Mr Green was held “on suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office and aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office”. The likelihood of a charge is thought to centre on whether the MP directly asked Mr Galley to provide leaked information, which would be illegal. The Tories insist that they merely received information from a whistle-blower. Mr Quick is understood to have reassured Sir Paul before Mr Green’s arrest that he was confident that correct procedures had been, and would be, followed. Both men have applied to be the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
When the news of the leak inquiry broke, Mr Galley was moved to an RAF base at taxpayers’ expense to isolate him from reporters and the Westminster rumour machine. The civil servant was smuggled into RAF Uxbridge in west London and remained there voluntarily for several days in a carefully-planned Home Office operation. A Home Office spokeswoman refused to comment on the manoeuvre. The civil servant is understood to have since moved off the base “under his own volition”. Gordon Brown and Ms Smith have both denied involvement in the decision to arrest Mr Green and insisted that it was purely a matter for the police. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/3628875/Scotland-Yard-determined-to-motor-on-in-Tory-leak-case.html
December 2008; New Laws To Permit Search Of MPs’ Offices Without a Warrant
A new Bill outlined in last week’s Queen’s Speech contains small print allowing officers of the Electoral Commission unfettered powers to search MPs offices or homes. If the Commons’ Speaker tried to stop the searches, he would be committing a criminal offence. The details of the Political Parties and Elections Bill, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, appear to blow out of the water claims by Michael Martin, the Speaker, that in future no MP’s office will be able to be searched without a warrant. Mr Martin, who is clinging to his job in the wake of the police raid on the office of Mr Green, the Conservative immigration spokesman, made his claim during his statement on the affair in the Commons last week.
Last night Francis Maude, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, branded ministers’s new plans “alarming” and said they were a further blow to parliamentary privilege. Currently, Electoral Commission officials are allowed to make unannounced raids, without a warrant, on the offices of political parties, to search for information or documents. The new Bill seeks to widen these powers to apply to the offices or homes of “regulated donees”, which include MPs. No warrant would be needed – just a “disclosure notice” issued by the commission itself. The new laws could also apply to the homes and offices of anyone who has ever made a donation to a political party.
The Speaker told the House of Commons in his statement last week that “from now on a warrant will always be required where a search of a Member’s office or access to a Member’s Parliamentary papers is sought. Every case must be referred for my personal decision as it is my responsibility.” However, under the new proposals, he would not be consulted and he would face arrest if he resisted. The Damian Green case has taken a new twist after it emerged that ministers plan to legislate to make it easier for state officials to raid MPs’ offices without a warrant. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/3629643/New-laws-to-permit-search-of-MPs-offices-without-warrant.html
Comment; Another control act from the master controller. The UK is gripped by the government.
December 2008; The Damian Green Affair: The Unanswered Questions
* Did the Commons Speaker, Michael Martin, really play such a small part in the decision to allow the police to search Mr Green’s office as he claimed in his Commons statement last week?
* If so, why was he not fully involved in making such a major decision?
* Will the Serjeant at Arms, Jill Pay, explain publicly for the first time why she allowed police to search Mr Green’s House of Commons office without a warrant?
* Whom did the Serjeant at Arms consult before making her decision to give written consent for the search?
* Why was Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, not informed in advance of the raid on Mr Green’s offices, as she claims?
*Did Jacqui Smith instruct her staff in advance not to inform her if any opposition politicians were about to be arrested?
*Did the alleged whistle-blower, Christopher Galley, provide Damian Green with any information which threatened national security?
*Did Mr Green ask Mr Galley to leak particular documents?
* Did Mr Galley receive payment or the promise of a job in return for leaking?
* Were the police misled by civil servants about the severity of the leaks?
*Specifically, were police told that the leaks involved high-level state secrets involving terrorism?
* Did Scotland Yard make any attempt to obtain a warrant to search Mr Green’s office?
* If so, were they refused?
* What steps have been put in place by Scotland Yard to protect sensitive and private communications between Mr Green and his constituents, particularly as some of the information may relate to the police themselves?
* Will Gordon Brown, and other senior Labour figures, come under any sort of official scrutiny regarding leaks of government material they obtained and released when Labour was in opposition? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/3628923/Damian-Green-affair-The-unanswered-questions.html
December 2008; Speaker Michael Martin Under Pressure As MPs Prepare To Debate Damian Green Affair
MPs are set to increase the pressure on Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons, when a debate on the way police were allowed to search a Tory MP’s office gets under way at Westminster. Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, had both his Commons office and home searched by anti-terrorist police investigating a Whitehall whistleblower. Last week Mr Martin admitted that he did not know about the search and blamed his junior officials – in particular Jill Pay, the Serjeant at Arms – for allowing the raid to go ahead without a warrant.
MPs do not usually criticise the Speaker, but that convention will now be put under strain. Some MPs have openly questioned Mr Martin’s position. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, used very careful language over the weekend. He said he “wanted” to have confidence in the Speaker. The Daily Telegraph has been told that some senior Labour figures are now discussing a plan to persuade Mr Martin to announce he intends to stand down at the next election.
December 2008; Commons Speaker Michael Martin Under Pressure From MPs
The position of the Commons Speaker Michael Martin is looking increasingly precarious after a poll of MPs found more than 30 backbenchers say they have lost confidence in him. On the eve of a crucial Commons debate on the Damian Green affair, more than a third of MPs responding to a BBC survey indicated the Speaker should go. The findings came as more senior figures voiced their misgivings at his handling of the whole affair, while one former deputy speaker said that he should now stand down “with a degree of dignity”.
The survey, by Radio 4’s The World This Weekend programme, approached 130 MPs of whom 90 took part. Of those, 32 said that they had lost confidence in Mr Martin. They included eight Labour MPs, 14 Tories, and seven Liberal Democrats. Another 50 said that they thought the Speaker was in some way “culpable”, including 14 Labour, 22 Tories and 14 Liberal Democrats. Labour former minister Stephen Ladyman was one of a series of senior backbenchers to express misgivings at one had happened. “It is a very serious matter for a Member of Parliament to lose confidence in the Speaker,” he told The World This Weekend. “We will be incredibly distressed if the inquiry throws up evidence that there was any level of culpability in the Speaker, that he did have the opportunity to do something about it but didn’t do it. “It is a very serious matter and we have to put our loyalty to democracy before our loyalty to the Speaker and our friendship with the Speaker.”
Tory former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said that the concerns were widely shared across Parliament. “I say it with a great degree of sadness that I was deeply surprised and very, very disturbed,” he told The World This Weekend. “One can’t just say it is a small number of people who are worried and concerned. I think most Members of Parliament, regardless of political party, believe the way in which these matters were handled in the last week was seriously flawed. “I don’t think I am being controversial in saying I don’t think that Speaker Martin will go down as one of the great Speakers of the House of Commons.”
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said that it was “unfair” that the Serjeant at Arms Jill Pay had been left by Mr Martin to shoulder the responsibility for allowing police into the Commons without a warrant. “It is right to say that MPs are reluctant to criticise any Speaker, but I felt that I couldn’t just sit on my hands when a senior member of staff was treated in that way and I think that ultimately we become complicit if we remain silent,” he told the programme.
However the most scathing comments came from the former deputy speaker Michael Morris, now Lord Naseby, who said that he was “amazed” that Mr Martin had not stopped the police from entering. “Why the Speaker was not in lead role is something I find absolutely incomprehensible,” he told The World This Weekend. “He needs to reflect on that situation. I don’t think that it is for the members to necessarily put down a motion of no confidence, because that is a very drastic stage, but I think he needs to reflect on his position frankly. “In my judgment he has let the House of Commons down.” He said that he believed that Mr Martin should now consider stepping down before the next general election in order to give his successor a chance to settle in, “We are all human, we make mistakes. In my judgment he has made a mistake, and a very big mistake, and I think you go out with a degree of dignity,” Lord Naseby said. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/3659463/Commons-Speaker-Michael-Martin-under-pressure-from-MPs.html
December 2008; Damian Green Affair Must Never Be Repeated
Sometimes vindication can be a bitter pill. Despite the intensity of my belief that this government was systematically undermining our historic freedoms, even l was shocked by the senseless and insensitive behaviour of our police force in arresting my close friend and colleague, Damian Green Whether it was chaotic mishandling of the first order by the police, the Home Office, and the House of Commons authorities, or the inevitable consequence of a weakened Commons and over mighty Executive, or something even more sinister, we may never know. Whatever the cause, it must never, ever, happen again.
If it is allowed to stand it will fatally undermine the last vestiges of power in the Commons, intimidate legitimate whistleblowers from highlighting misdeeds and cover-ups in government, and suppress free speech. We also hear a lot of bogus talk about threats to national security. When this is challenged we are told “we don’t know all the facts.” Well, yes we do, as far as this case goes anyway. Remember, we are not talking about leaks to the Russians here. We are talking about information that appeared in newspapers, all of which by definition we know about. That is why this investigation was launched: it has nothing to do with the security of the nation, and everything to do with the psychological insecurity of the Home Office The answer lies in making the shield of parliamentary privilege-or democratic protection as it would be better named – a far more robust device.
“The privilege of freedom of speech enjoyed by Members of Parliament is in truth the privilege of their constituents. It is secured to Members not for their personal benefit but to enable them to discharge the functions of their office without fear of prosecution, civil or criminal.” Those are the words of the House of Commons Privileges Committee, ruling in 1939 that the government would not be allowed to prosecute Duncan Sandys, who had effectively disclosed Britain’s weakness in defence against the looming Nazi threat.
Duncan Sandys had been threatened with prosecution, not for saying what he said, but for refusing to disclose to the government which Civil Servant had given him the information, or help them in their subsequent witch-hunt. The protections we have as elected representatives should not be absolute – but they should be clear. A few are currently codified, essentially in the Bill of Rights. The rest is governed by the House of Commons itself in a combination of convention, consensus and common sense. Last week that combination came apart at the seams.
Members of Parliament do a number of jobs, and each has its implications for privilege. In dealing with their constituents, they deal in matters of extreme personal trust and confidentiality. In exposing failings in government, and the associated cover ups, they act more like journalists. What this all means is that the House of Commons should apply some fairly straightforward tests before allowing the police to ransack the files of an MP and breach the confidentiality of his constituents and informants.
* Firstly, the crime involved should be serious and specific. Neither should it be a widely cast vague charge as “conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office” very much is.
* Secondly, there should be solid evidence. If the MP has not been charged – as Damian Green has not, then this almost certainly means obtaining explicit approval from a Law Officer.
* Thirdly, the charge should not relate to the MP’s legitimate parliamentary activity. The Duncan Sandys case was serious – disclosure of official secrets about military preparedness –yet it was ruled as appropriate Parliamentary action. History proved that judgement right.
* Finally, the intrusion on constituents’ privacy must be absolutely necessary, not some further fishing expedition.
Amid a classic who-said-what-to-whom farrago, the Speaker has been contradicted by the police, who have in turn been contradicted by eminent lawyers. Even more deplorably, the committee of seven senior MPs proposed to resolve the affair will not even start work until the police (and possibly the courts) have completed their work. The truth is that the protections we assumed we had for our constituents and whistleblowers are either not believed in, or are not upheld, by the authorities. Convention has broken down. The only route left to us is to codify the protections, either in the standing orders of the House, or law, or both.
December 2008; Damian Green Affair: Timeline
MPs are to debate the police raid on the House of Commons office of Tory frontbencher Damian Green amid deepening concern over the role played by Speaker Michael Martin. Here is a timeline of events surrounding the arrest of the shadow immigration minister:
* October 8: Gus McPherson, Cabinet Secretary calls in the Metropolitan Police to investigate the Home Office leaks.
* November 19: Junior Home Office official Christopher Galley is arrested and suspended from duty.
* November 27: Shadow immigration minister Damian Green is arrested and held by the Metropolitan Police for nine hours, on suspicion of “conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office, and aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office”.
December 2008; Labour’s Hypocrisy Over Leaks And Damian Green’s Arrest
Labour cannot shrug off the charge of hypocrisy over the arrest of the Conservative shadow minister Damian Green because under the Blair and Brown governments successive Home Secretaries have engaged in the deliberate and systematic leaking of their own decisions in order to gain political advantage. Jacqui Smith’s private office at the Home Office was no different to any other in Whitehall. Right across the various government departments, Labour’s political spin doctors have shown scant regard for the confidentiality of ministerial announcements and they have regularly been trailed in advance through leaks to sympathetic journalists.
The poisonous legacy of Tony Blair’s action in doubling and then trebling the number of ministerial special advisers has been a rapid acceleration in the politicisation of the flow of information from the state to the news media. Even though young civil servants have had to sign the Official Secrets Act it is no wonder they might occasionally be tempted to leak information. They work alongside special advisers who also have the status of temporary civil servants but who are not subject to the same rules and who have the freedom to pass on confidential data to journalists. Tipping off newspapers about the content of forthcoming announcements has become a way of life under New Labour. When Jacqui Smith defended the Metropolitan Police for arresting the twenty-six-year old civil servant Christopher Galley and the Conservative shadow minister Damian Green she complained about there having been “a systematic series of leaks from the department which deals with some of the most sensitive confidential information in the government”.
But she could just as easily have been giving the job description of one of the many Labour Party spin doctors working at the heart of the government. There has been a systematic trailing of Home Office decisions on her watch, just as there was during the tenure of her predecessors who showed the same cavalier disregard for parliamentary conventions by pre-empting announcements. The last of the leaks which preceded the arrests of Galley and Green related to the impact on crime of the economic downturn. “Crunch will send crime soaring” was the Daily Mail’s front-page headline (1.9.2008) over its report about the leak of a “dynamite draft letter” from Ms Smith to the Prime Minister predicting a sharp rise in burglary and violence. Perhaps the Home Secretary has chosen to overlook the exclusive stories which her own spin doctors have leaked to the News of the World:
* “War on Guns” — an exclusive front-page splash about Ms Smith’s plan to announce a “dramatic gun amnesty to clean up Britain’s streets of fear”. (News of the World 26.8.2007)
* “It’s victory for Sarah” — an exclusive report confirming that the Home Secretary would “push ahead with plans to protect kids from paedophiles in a major victory for our Sarah’s law campaign”. (News of the World 17.2.2008)
The failure of New Labour to recognise their own double standards beggars belief. Lance Price, a former BBC correspondent who became a Downing Street spin doctor, revealed all when writing about Green’s arrest for the Daily Telegraph (29.11.2008). He admitted that during the early years of his premiership Tony Blair routinely leaked information which pre-empted government announcements. Price’s account of the hidden trade between politicians and the news media can hardly be bettered: “I sat in on briefings with senior journalists in which he (Blair) would reveal, ahead of time, the government’s plans in one area or another. It was my job to do the same on an almost daily basis, and I was paid from the public purse for the privilege”.
Gordon Brown’s difficulty in attempting to castigate Damian Green is twofold: not only was Brown an assiduous exploiter of leaked documents during his days in Opposition, but he has also become the Labour government’s most prolific and longest-serving trader in government secrets. Brown learned the hard way how to cover his tracks. He did not repeat, for example, the mistake he made in a BBC Breakfast interview in 1985 when he owned up to the presenter Frank Bough about the origin of a leak about the latest estimates for supplementary benefits. Brown: “I was given them by a civil servant who was as concerned as I was about a government that misled people”. Bough: “You’ve got a very good mole in there, haven’t you?” Brown: “Well, I don’t know, I’ve got someone who’s very concerned about the public interest”.
A decade later when he was shadow Chancellor he took greater care not to be caught off guard. In November 1993 he obtained a leaked copy of the government’s latest review of social security and after being interviewed with the document in a report for Breakfast with Frost he complained that it could be seen in close up. Brown demanded that the shot should be removed from all further news bulletins because he had said “seventeen times that no minister should see it”…and he wanted to “make sure if Virginia Bottomley (Secretary of State for Health) is interviewed by On The Record she doesn’t get to see it”.
But Brown’s quote to end all quotes was from Budget day in 1996 after Labour had made use of an illicitly-acquired document which contained most of the key announcements and which the shadow Chancellor’s aides leaked so comprehensively that it torpedoed Kenneth Clarke’s final Budget for the Conservatives. “1p off tax today” was the front-page headline in the Sun which thanks to the help of spin doctors like Charlie Whelan correctly pre-empted most of Clarke’s announcements. But when he was interviewed that morning on Today, Brown could hardly have sounded any more upstanding. He said that when he personally was offered the chance to read the 94-page pack of Treasury press releases, he refused. With a general election only months away, Brown must have looked over his shoulder momentarily, remembered his own questionable behaviour in the past, and realised that as the likely future Chancellor it was time, at least in public, to play by the rules of Whitehall and to start attacking leakers.
Had Margaret Thatcher still been in the House of Commons, she would not doubt have been incandescent at the effrontery of Brown’s answer on Today: “Nobody can condone the leak of sensitive Budget matters the day before the Budget…The most important thing to recognise is that the civil servant who did this is serving no public purpose. I don’t think anyone should condone the action”. In his decade as Chancellor, Brown progressively disregarded virtually all the ballyhoo about pre-Budget purdah and the traditional secrecy surrounding the contents of the Budget box.
During his long years in opposition Brown had become a regular conduit for publicising confidential documents leaked to him by civil servants and he was admired for the way he could put them to good use when attacking the Conservatives. In distributing his leaks and tip-offs among the political correspondents of Westminster, he had made some friends for life. Once Labour were in power, he demonstrated an equally deft touch when making use of the journalists he could trust. The press build-up his Budgets and financial statements was always carefully manipulated to prepare the ground for any changes which he intended to make and Brown has continued as Prime Minister to be Labour’s leading exponent of institutionalised leaking. http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/issues/more/item/5271-labour
December 2008; Gordon Brown Gave Me Leaked Whitehall Secrets – Michael Gove,(Tory Education Minister)
He was a young Opposition politician motivated by an admirable sort of idealism. He believed the establishment was arranging things, which mattered hugely to his constituents, entirely on their own terms. He felt that the public should be informed about big issues which touched on their livelihoods and safety. So when a leak came, indeed when a series of leaks came, that blew open just what was going on behind closed doors, he shared the information with me. The young Opposition politician in question? Gordon Brown.
In the early 1990s, when the Prime Minister was in the shadow cabinet, I worked for Scottish Television. Gordon had cut his teeth as a producer for STV years before. Not only did he appreciate how broadcast news operated, he was also co-operative towards young journalists at his old station. That is why he would always make time to troop out to the rain-soaked green outside the Commons to share with me details of the latest leaked document he had received.
As shadow trade and industry spokesman, Gordon was developing a formidable Commons reputation and was clearly in the party’s top three performers. He had the safest of seats in Fife and a loyal phalanx of supporters within the Scottish Labour Party. He had no particular need to cultivate his own, very secure, backyard. But he took the trouble to keep me informed because the leaks touched on a constituency issue that mattered hugely to him – the future of the Rosyth naval base, which was smack on his doorstep. Over a prolonged period, Gordon was in receipt of a whole series of documents which led him to believe the Government was preparing to do the dirty on Rosyth. He feared that electoral calculations would lead the Government to favour naval bases in Tory seats down South, when ministers should be standing by Rosyth.
He fought a tenacious campaign, which as a young reporter I appreciated being able to cover. And what gave the campaign an extra edge and panache, indeed what gave it the ability to dominate the Scottish media and influence Cabinet opinion, was the potency of the leaks. Papers flowed from the heart of the Ministry of Defence into Gordon Brown’s office and straight onto the nation’s newsdesks. Papers which gave Gordon a fantastic platform. But papers which also, crucially, touched not just on his constituents’ security of employment but also the security of the nation. For Rosyth was home not just to Type 42 destroyers but was also a base for refitting the nuclear submarines which provide Britain with its deterrent. And the leaks we received came, as Gordon often pointed out himself, at a time when British forces were committed in the Middle East against Saddam Hussein. Of course, at the time, Gordon argued he was enhancing our national security. Securing guarantees for Rosyth’s future was in the national interest, he maintained. And I saw force of the argument then.
But if that justification was valid when Gordon Brown was an opposition politician, then what does it say about the Prime Minister’s attitude now? It seems hypocritical to say the least for Gordon to argue that my colleague Damian Green has committed some sort of grave sin by publicising information he has received. Damian has placed information in the public domain, about the Government’s failure to police immigration, which is crucial to the national debate about how we secure our borders. No-one has argued that the public debate has been cheapened or demeaned by Damian’s actions.
Exposing the fact that thousands of illegal immigrants are working in the security industry is important, and a telling example of the Government’s failure to get a grip on a hugely sensitive issue. But, in security terms, there’s a difference between what happens with Group Four guards and what happens with Trident submarines. And it must be clear, even to the most partisan Labour stooge, which is the bigger national security issue. Police will continue to ask their questions. But that mustn’t stop opposition politicians asking serious questions too.
Why did officials decide that this was a criminal investigation and not a simple matter of breach of an employment contract? As Maurice Frankel of the Campaign for the Freedom of Information has pointed out, the law was specifically changed in 1989 to ensure these sorts of leaks were employment issues, not criminal matters. What was the ministerial involvement in launching this investigation and who within Government, at whatever level, has been kept informed about the its progress?
What national security issues are really at stake? Are they anything like as serious as the nationals security issues raised by the MoD leaks to Gordon Brown in the 1990s? And if they’re not, then why do the police think it right to arrest someone now when they didn’t then? Above all, why should the full investigative power of the criminal justice system be used to harass and intimidate a politician who has exposed Government failure? And why won’t Gordon Brown tell us what he thinks? He was never so shy 17 years ago when the leaks were all coming his way. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/3628293/Gordon-Brown-gave-me-leaked-Whitehall-secrets.html