Police Abuse of Parliament On Camera

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The actual footage of the police search of Damian Green’s office in the Houses of Parliament is quite brief, but it’s surely enough to make any other reasonable person cringe. To see a police officer who has unconstitutionally been given free rein to enter the Palace of Westminster, to tell the representative of the Leader of the Opposition to turn the camera off and leave because ‘it’s not appropriate that (he) be in here’ is chilling.

Separately it’s somewhat reassuring to see that Ian Johnston of the British Transport Police has been brought in to review the behaviour of the Metropolitan Police. It’s being seen as the first step in the Met’s dropping the case, although you wouldn’t know it from the fierce exchanges between Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and her opposition counterpart Dominic Grieve!

His letter to her:

you have failed to give a categorical assurance that neither you, Ministers nor any Home Office officials were aware that Damian Green or any other Member of Parliament were the subject of the police investigation following the arrest of a junior Home Office civil servant on 19 November. This is astonishing, given that your department referred the leaks for an inquiry in the first place

Her reply to him:

You claim I have not given a full account of my own knowledge in relation to the arrest of Damian Green MP. That is not the case. I have been absolutely clear that I did not know until after the arrest of Damian Green that he – or any other Member of Parliament – was being investigated by the police or was to be arrested.

You are widely reported in yesterday’s media as saying “I think she knew there was an MP involved in this investigation and she decided to simply sit back on her hands.” You repeat this claim in your letter as “the only plausible conclusion” that can be drawn from my comments.

This is a mischievous, perverse, inaccurate and wholly unfounded allegation. Furthermore, it runs wilfully and directly counter to the public statements made by myself, the Home Office Permanent Secretary and the Metropolitan Police Service.

Not so, Ms. Smith. You completely evade the question when questioned by reporters in my previous blogpost about this affair. When asked if you had prior knowledge that an MP was being investigated, your reply was you didn’t know Green was going to be arrested – a reply to a different question. The clarification here is welcome, albeit belated, but still mystifying. If Smith admits she knew Christopher Galley was under investigation, how could she not have known in advance it was in connection with Damian Green?

As I write, the story has evolved again. Now it’s emerged that the Met stepped in after the Cabinet Office claimed the scale of the leaks, even though none of them related to classified information or involved national security, could nonetheless pose a threat to national security. Interestingly:

(Shadow Home Secretary) Grieve tabled a 34-point freedom of information request to the home secretary last night to try to verify her account of her role in the affair.

I’m going to be dead curious to see what the result is. Then again the Freedom of Information Act is riddled with limitations, so the answer will probably be nothing. Either way I don’t buy the legitimacy of the police action, nor of Jacqui Smith’s attitude towards it. As has been said many times on yesterday’s news programmes, at the most this was a disciplinary matter – to suggest that Dominic Green was at any stage criminal, or his involvement with Galley a potential threat to national security, is laughable. It doesn’t in any way justify his arrest, his treatment by the Met, nor their breach of Parliamentary privilege. It’ll be interesting to see if Commons Speaker Michael Martin keeps his job after the Queen’s Speech debate later today.

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One response to “Police Abuse of Parliament On Camera

  1. The Government and in particular Home Secretary Jacqui Smith deny knowing that the arrest and the raids were going to take place. This is simply a case of “who will rid me of this troublesome priest”. They set the thing in motion then stood back denying any knowledge, hiding behind the independence of the police.

    It is disingenuous of the Speaker to blame the Sergeant at Arms when he (the Speaker) apparently knew about the raids the day before. The Speaker should resign immediately.

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