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The Speaker's statement on Damian Green

Damian_greenHansard has the full report of the Speaker's statement on Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green and subsequent contributions from MPs here. There will be a debate on the issue on Monday.

Some highlights from yesterday are reproduced below.

The Speaker is to be commended for one thing: offering no public comment before addressing Parliament:

"In the past few days there has been much pressure on me to make public comment about these matters, but I felt that it was right and fitting that I should make no comment until Parliament reconvenes, because it is this House and this House alone that I serve, as well as being accountable for the actions of its Officers. I should emphasise from the start that it is not for me to comment on the allegations that have been made against the hon. Member or on the disposal of those allegations in the judicial process."

After making the point that Parliament is not a "haven from the law", Speaker Martin gave an outline of events:

"On Wednesday last, the Metropolitan police informed the Serjeant at Arms that an arrest was contemplated, but did not disclose the identity of the Member. I was told in the strictest confidence by her that a Member might be arrested and charged, but no further details were given to me. I was told that they might be forthcoming the next morning.

At 7 am on Thursday, police called upon the Serjeant at Arms and explained the background to the case, and disclosed to the Serjeant the identity of the Member. The Serjeant at Arms called me, told me the Member’s name and said that a search might take place of his offices in the House. I was not told that the police did not have a warrant. [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] Order. I have been told that the police did not explain, as they are required to do, that the Serjeant was not obliged to consent, or that a warrant could have been insisted upon. [ Interruption. ] Order. Let me make the statement. I regret that a consent form was then signed by the Serjeant at Arms, without consulting the Clerk of the House.

I must make it clear to the House— [ Interruption. ] Order. I must make it clear to the House that I was not asked the question of whether consent should be given, or whether a warrant should have been insisted on. I did not personally authorise the search. It was later that evening that I was told that the search had gone ahead only on the basis of a consent form. I further regret that I was formally told by the police only yesterday, by letter from Assistant Commissioner Robert Quick, that the hon. Member was arrested on 27 November on suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office and on suspicion of aiding and abetting misconduct in public office."

The Speaker then indicated that in future a warrant will always be needed to search an MP's office or rifle through their papers. He also said that he is setting up a committee of seven "senior and experienced" members to examine and report on the events of Greengate. (OK, he didn't call it "Greengate".)

Might not there be some merit in having one comparatively inexperienced member on the committee? That's how it's done in the movies, and the young buck often uncovers the truth.

Former Home Secretary and Leader of the Opposition Michael Howard made a powerful intervention. One would not want to be caught in his crosshairs:

"Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I thank you for your statement, thank you for the debate and welcome your decision to set up the Committee. You, Sir, will readily appreciate the outrage that was felt on both sides of the House about the attack on the ability of one of its Members to do the job he was sent here to do—to represent his constituents and to hold the Government to account.

You will be aware, of course, that what happened last Thursday was not simply a search of his premises, serious though that was, but the removal of his computers containing his constituency casework, the removal of his mobile telephone and the disconnection of the telephones at his constituency home. This attack was entirely without precedent, and is—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am very reluctant to interrupt a right hon. and learned Member, especially a former Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, but those things can come up in the debate on Monday. [Interruption.] May I help the right hon. and learned Gentleman? Obviously, when any hon. Member is in any difficulty, I feel that it is my duty to try to help as best I can. With regard to the computer equipment being removed, when I discovered that, I instructed the Serjeant at Arms to ensure that the police had that equipment back in the office on Monday to allow the hon. Member concerned to function properly as a Member of Parliament. Please remember that this is a point of order and not a debate.

Mr. Howard: Well, Sir, may I ask about the debate? Will you make it clear that any Member who takes part in that debate will be free to question the conduct in this deplorable affair of Ministers, of civil servants and of the House authorities?

Mr. Speaker: It is up to the Government to table the motion. I do not have powers to table the motion. [Interruption.] Order. I only have the powers that this House has given me. It is up to the Government to table the motion, and I have made that clear. The terms of the motion will determine the nature of the debate. That is the best that I can say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman at the moment."

Damian Green also spoke:

"Thank you for your statement, Mr. Speaker, and for granting the debate. I also thank the hon. Members in all parts of the House and the very many members of the public who expressed support for me over the weekend. May I make it absolutely clear that I believe that Members of Parliament are not above the law? Those who have the real power in this country—Ministers, senior civil servants and the police—are not beyond the law or beyond scrutiny, either. An MP endangering national security would be a disgrace; an MP exposing embarrassing facts about Home Office policy that Ministers are hiding is doing a job in the public interest. The day when exposing facts that Ministers would prefer to keep hidden becomes a crime will be a bad day for democracy in this country."

Another former Leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith, questioned the wisdom of allowing the Government to draft the motion to be debated on Monday. Douglas Hogg (MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham) asked the Speaker to inform the police that they are not above the law. Sir Patrick Cormack (member for South Staffordshire) asked whether the debate on Monday would last for the whole day, and the Speaker replied that this was a matter for the Government.


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