Damian Green MP

24 Mar 2009 10:08:06

Why shouldn't the Government hold DNA samples?

DNA 2 Home Office questions came around yesterday.  

The most interesting questions were about the holding of DNA samples. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith outlined the Government's position:

"The national DNA database plays a key role in catching criminals, including many years after they might think that they have got away with their crime, eliminating the innocent from investigations, and focusing the direction of inquiries. In 2007-08, 17,614 crimes were detected in which a DNA match was available. Those included 83 homicides and 184 rapes. In addition, there were a further 15,420 detections resulting from the original case involving the DNA match. Those occur when, for example, a suspect, on being presented with DNA evidence linking him to one offence, confesses to further offences.


The specific ruling [by the European Court of Human Rights] was on a blanket policy of retention of the fingerprints and DNA of those who had been arrested but not convicted, or against whom no further action was being taken. The Court also indicated that it agreed with the Government that the retention of fingerprint and DNA data

    “pursues the legitimate purpose of the detection, and therefore, prevention of crime”.

We are, however, looking at the key point in the judgment, and drawing up proposals that will remove the blanket retention policy. We will bring forward those proposals for consultation soon.


I announced in December our intention to remove all those aged under 10 from the database. That has now been carried out. When we bring forward proposals to change the blanket approach to retention, we will give particular consideration to those aged under 18, and to how the protection of the public can be balanced with fairness to the individual."

Wells MP David Heathcoat-Amory posed a question on civil liberties:

"What does the Secretary of State say to Mr. Daniel Baker, a constituent of mine who was a victim of mistaken identity? He was never charged with any crime and is entirely innocent, but the police are retaining his DNA against his wishes. When will the Secretary of State start recognising the liberties of the individual, and stop regarding everyone in the country as a suspect?

Jacqui Smith: I think that the case study that I cited a minute ago identified some of the important benefits of DNA retention. There are real-life cases in which people have been made safer by the retention of DNA post-arrest. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman’s constituent can apply to the police force, in exceptional circumstances. That is why— [Interruption.] That is why I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will look closely at our proposals for a more proportionate way of dealing with the retention policy."

The Home Secretary had described a case where a man arrrested for violent disorder was released without charge. However, a DNA sample was taken. Several months later a rape occured. Skin taken from below the victim's fingernails was matched to this man's sample, and he is now in prison.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling went with the same issue:

"This is a very straightforward and simple issue. It is, right now, illegal to store the DNA of innocent people over long periods on the DNA database, but as of today, the Government are still doing that. Why?

Jacqui Smith: I have made it very clear to the hon. Gentleman that we have looked in detail at the judgment in the case of S and Marper and we will bring forward proposals very soon—and when we do so, I hope that Opposition Members will engage with them with slightly more sophistication than they have done today.

Chris Grayling: But this is illegal now, today. Furthermore, it is a principle in our society that people are innocent until proven guilty. This Government have a habit of throwing away many principles in this society, but that is one that should be sacrosanct. In the case of the DNA database, however, they appear happy to abandon the principle. They are also happy to store the data of babies and children. Their actions are clearly morally and legally wrong. Why will they not just stop keeping this data illegally, right now, today? Why will they not stop now?

Jacqui Smith: As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a period of time during which, quite rightly and reasonably—not least given that the Government’s approach to the retention of data was upheld in the UK courts—there is consideration and proposals are brought forward. That is what the Government are doing, and he obviously was not listening when I said that no DNA of children under the age of 10 is kept on DNA databases now."

The Government has proven itself utterly inept at holding people's personal details, but I don't have any other objections to them holding DNA samples for individuals. Indeed it would seem to have lots of advantages. I suppose one other worry is that most of us are not in a position to question the authority of scientists who assure us that DNA samples match - something I always think of when someone says they are in favour of the death penalty "when there's no doubt".

Continue reading "Why shouldn't the Government hold DNA samples?" »

26 Feb 2009 09:51:11

More than a hundred MPs want to see police report on Damian Green arrest

Damian_greenA over a hundred MPs from different parties have signed the following Early Day Motion (number 862), calling for a release of a report on the arrest of Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green:


Jenkin, Bernard

That this House notes that the report of the inquiry conducted by Chief Constable Ian Johnston of the British Transport Police, and which was commissioned by the Metropolitan Police in December to review the arrest and investigation of the hon. Member for Ashford, has been withheld from public scrutiny and from Parliament despite the fact that parts of the report were released by the Metropolitan Police on 16 December 2008 and used in comments by Assistant Police Commissioner Bob Quick; and therefore calls on the Home Secretary to take appropriate measures to ensure that a copy of the report be placed in the Library without further delay."

Signatories include Menzies Campbell, Keith Vaz (who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee) former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis and Clare Short.

This issue is not going away.

10 Feb 2009 14:28:15

Chris Grayling worried about illegal immigrants

Chris_graylingYesterday the Commons hosted questions to the Home Office. The new Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling (right), had a chance to shine.

Shadow Justice Minister David Burrowes asked about drug prevention:

"Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Last month, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse published figures that reveal that nearly 25,000 young people aged under 18 are in treatment for drug and alcohol problems. Is that not an indictment of the fact that the Government did not do more earlier on drug prevention, and the fact that just 12 per cent. of the drugs budget was spent on prevention? There is no evaluation at all of many of the activities.

Jacqui Smith: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise the progress made by those working in the drugs field over the past 10 or 11 years. Overall drug use and class A drug use among young people are now at their lowest levels ever, as measured by the British crime survey. Among school pupils, overall drug use has fallen. The rate of frequent drug use among pupils has also fallen. The people involved in that work should be congratulated, unlike the hon. Gentleman’s party, which proposes cuts to the Home Office budget; that would certainly impact on our ability to counter the harms caused by drugs. I hope that he will back up his words with words advising his Front-Bench team to put back that money."

Maria Miller, Shadow Minister for the Family, received a similar answer to her question, which answer again poured scorn on the Conservatives' spending plans:

"The Basingstoke rape and sexual abuse centre, along with many other rape crisis centres, does an excellent job to support victims. Why do the Government not do one thing that would really help those centres and adopt a three-year funding cycle, as suggested by colleagues on the Opposition Benches, to try and put an end to the financial uncertainty that so many of those crisis centres still face?

Mr. Campbell: The Government provided £1 million extra this year to rape crisis centres, and I am informed that no rape crisis centre has closed since that period. We value the work of rape crisis centres and are working with local partners to see how best they can be funded, but coming from a party that will cut investment, suggesting a commitment to a three-year period is asking a lot."

Let us take a deep breath and patiently say this once again: when a budget is large and complex it is possible to make overall savings whilst increasing or maintaining spending on specific areas!

Continue reading "Chris Grayling worried about illegal immigrants" »

27 Jan 2009 13:30:33

Michael Gove and Damian Green question school standards

Damian_greenMichael_goveYesterday the House of Commons had oral questions on Children, Schools and Families.

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green poured scorn on coursework as a method of assessment:

"May I ask the Minister also to consider the means of assessment and, in particular, the use of course work for GCSEs and AS-levels? As a parent of teenagers, I know that many of them regard this form of assessment as laughable. It might be assessing the candidates, but it might also be assessing the work of their elder sibling, their parents or their friends—no one can be confident that it is assessing the work of the candidates themselves. Will the Minister accept that this experiment is failing, because it is not providing fair assessment, and look again at how best to obtain accurate results in these important exams for young people?

Jim Knight: The hon. Gentleman is right to say that they are important exams. Indeed, my son is currently doing his course work for his second year of A-levels. He is taking the work extremely seriously—I hope—and this is the subject of much discussion. Course work is important, and it is important that it is completed properly. It varies between different subjects, and we have reduced the amount of course work as a component of certain GCSEs. I am confident that we have now struck the right balance in each of the different subjects. For example, as someone who studied geography to degree level, I know that course work is a really important element in that subject, and it should remain so."

This is a tricky area. On the one hand coursework is open to massive abuse, on the other exams really don't favour everybody, and indeed an ability to complete an ongoing project successfully is arguably a more useful skill in the workplace than being good at tests.

Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove suggested that school examinations are also inadequate:

Continue reading "Michael Gove and Damian Green question school standards" »

18 Dec 2008 13:56:09

Michael Howard asks the Speaker to explain himself over Damian Green case

Michael_howardYesterday Michael Howard made a point of order in the Commons:

"On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You responded yesterday to the letter written to you last week, signed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and me. In that letter, we asked you to give precedence to our complaint of breach of privilege in respect of the arrest of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green). You have declined that request, which means the House does not have the opportunity to consider whether the matter should be referred to the Standards and Privileges Committee. I wonder, Mr. Speaker, whether you will be prepared to give the House this afternoon your reasons for declining that request?

Mr. Speaker: No. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows well that I do not give my reasons. I have declined the invitation from him and his parliamentary colleagues, but I do not give reasons."

It is right that MPs treat the Speaker with respect in the House of Commons. He holds a great office, and it is vital that MPs defer to that office. It is one of Mr Howard's many qualities that he has considerable reverence for Parliament. But Michael Martin should not expect to be free from criticism elsewhere. And he can afford to show a little more humility without losing face.

Sadly, he has never looked like he is up to his job. His predecessor Betty Boothroyd was superb. Contrastingly, Speaker Martin has frequently given the impression that he doesn't understand procedure and is unwilling to set aside partisan feelings. He won't fool anyone that is on top of things by trying to belittle a senior MP like Michael Howard.

We can also dismiss the notion that all of Michael Martin's critics are snobs. He has demonstrably failed to perform adequately - and that has precisely nothing to do with being Glaswegian.

Tom Greeves

9 Dec 2008 16:31:58

Which Labour MPs voted with the Tories over the committee to investigate the Damian Green raid?

As I pointed out earlier in a post on CentreRight, all but nine Conservative MPs were present yesterday to vote in the crunch division - defeated by four votes - which sought to allow the Speaker's committee investigating the raid on Damian Green's office to be set up along the lines that the Speaker originally intended.

Conservative MPs I have spoken to since have remarked that they were surprised at how close the vote was, and that they felt that a number of Labour MPs were persuaded to defy the strong Labour whip - or at least abstain - as a result of listening to the debate.

Tom Greeves has scoured Hansard to highlight some of the best contributions to the debate, so how did the figures stack up in that tight vote?

Joining the 184 Conservatives, 58 Lib Dems, 4 SNP and 2 Plaid Cymru MPs (along with one-man/woman bands George Galloway, Clare Short, Andrew Pelling, Richard Taylor and Bob Wareing) in the lobby were the following 29 Labour rebels:

  1. Diane Abbott
  2. Charles Clarke
  3. Frank Cook
  4. Jeremy Corbyn
  5. Paul Farrelly
  6. Frank Field
  7. Mark Fisher
  8. Paul Flynn
  9. Ian Gibson
  10. John Grogan
  11. Fabian Hamilton
  12. Dai Havard
  13. Kate Hoey
  14. Kelvin Hopkins
  15. Glenda Jackson
  16. Lynne Jones
  17. Andrew Mackinlay
  18. Denis MacShane
  19. Bob Marshall-Andrews
  20. John McDonnell
  21. Gordon Prentice
  22. Alan Simpson
  23. Sir Peter Soulsby
  24. Gisela Stuart
  25. Paul Truswell
  26. Keith Vaz
  27. Alan Williams
  28. David Winnick
  29. Tony Wright

Jonathan Isaby

9 Dec 2008 11:14:37

More on the Damian Green debate

Damian_greenMy ConservativeHome colleagues have already covered yesterday's debate on the Damian Green affair. But such is its significance that it is worth recording contributions from other Tory MPs. (The motion was introduced by Harriet Harman, the Leader of the House of Commons.)

Shadow Home Secretary made a crucial point, albeit that Sir Gerald Kaufman didn't accept it.

"Since the passage of the Official Secrets Act 1989, the leaking of material not concerning national security has ceased to be a criminal offence. On what basis, therefore, is a civil servant arrested for that, and on what conceivable basis is my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) arrested? If the right hon. Gentleman starts by asking himself that question—which relates to a gift to civil liberty from the last Conservative Government—he will start to conclude very quickly that the basis for the police’s erupting into this place and searching a Member of Parliament’s offices is shaky in the extreme. That is why he should be very concerned about what has happened, particularly because all the normal processes and protections that should have operated—including the consulting of the Director of Public Prosecutions—never occurred.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: What puzzles me, in view of that bout of rodomontade from the hon. and learned Gentleman, is why he says that Christopher Galley should be sacked, because Christopher Galley appears to have been doing something which is hugely praiseworthy."

Former Home Secretary and Leader of HM Opposition Michael Howard weighed in too:

"[In] his statement to the London Assembly last Wednesday, acting commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said that the Metropolitan Police Service was called in by the Cabinet Office

    “to investigate suspected criminal offences in relation to a substantial series of leaks from the Home Office potentially involving national security and the impeding of the efficient and effective conduct of government.”

I particularly want to draw the House’s attention to that last phrase. So far as I am aware, it has never been a criminal offence to impede the efficient and effective conduct of government and nor should it be. I do not think that the police should have been called into investigate on that basis, and they should not have agreed to do so.

I have written to Mr. Ian Johnston, the chief constable of the British Transport police who is carrying out an inquiry into the police’s handling of the matter, and asked him to consider this point in his inquiry. I have written to the Minister in charge at the Cabinet Office to ask who in the Cabinet Office called in the police on that extraordinary basis and whether the Minister authorised or knew of that action."

Continue reading "More on the Damian Green debate" »

8 Dec 2008 18:02:13

Government defeats cross-party amendment on Speaker's committee by four votes

The Government has just defeated an attempt by a cross-party group of MPs to widen the remit of the committee investigating the circumstances of the arrest of Conservative MP Damian Green and the search of his office by a mere four votes.

The amendment - moved by Sir Menzies Campbell - was also signed by a plethora of seniors MPs from different parties, including Conservatives David Davis, Michael Howard and Kenneth Clarke. Defeated by 285 votes to 281, it would have allowed for the committee to get on with its deliberations immediately and not necessarily have a government majority.

The main motion setting up the committee was then passed by 293 votes to 270.

Theresa May has just told the Commons that she and David Cameron were recommending that Conservative MPs do not sit on the committee because it "blatantly flies in the face" of the desire the Speaker outlined last week as to its nature.

Simon Hughes said that the Liberal Democrats took the same view.

The debate saw contributions from a number of Conservatives and here are some of the highlights as documented by PoliticsHome:

Theresa May:

"The motion before us today flies in the face of the Speaker's statement.  It is not only a gross discourtesy to the Speaker, but a flagrant abuse of the power of the executive, a blatant attempt to pack the committee, and delay its work until the controversy is over.  This Parliament deserves better from its Leader.

"The Leader should be in no doubt that if a committee is set up with a government majority that it would not have the support of the opposition."

"The police will not think worse of the Home Secretary to ask awkward questions like 'have you applied for a warrant?'  That is not improper interference. It is the proper exercise of scrutiny for ensuring that the police are doing their job.

"If this Committee is stuffed with Government Officials, we will treat this committee with the same contempt that this Government has shown to the House."

Ken Clarke:

"I do realise how annoying leaks are.  They're not always heroic.

"I don't think that anybody here is in favour of a totalitarian government.  No one on this side is running spies in the government and no one on the front bench is advocating a police state.  I think we have a House of Commons that is committed to parliamentary democracy. 

"We are led in an increasing air of carelessness and indifference.  We don't all respect the rule of law."

Other robust contributions were made by Michael Howard, Iain Duncan Smith and David Davis.

Jonathan Isaby

5 Dec 2008 18:59:32

Backbenchers are seeking to amend the motion setting up the committee on the Damian Green arrest

Yesterday it emerged that the committee the Speaker announced he was setting up to consider the issues surrounding the arrest of Damian Green would not only have a Government majority, but that he would not be able to select its membership either.

The Lib Dems have since announced their intention to boycott the committee.

Now, the Guardian's Andrew Sparrow is reporting that backbench amendments with cross-party support are being tabled for the debate on Harriet Harman's motion to set up the committee, which will take place on Monday.

Here's the intelligence he shares on his blog:

"Bill Cash has tabled an amendment signed by 11 other Tories and Plaid Cymru's Adam Price saying that the committee should be chaired by an opposition MP, that it should not have a Labour majority and that it should report by January 30. Douglas Hogg, another Tory, has tabled a series of amendments with the Liberal Democrat David Heath also calling for the inquiry to wind up by the end of next month, but his proposal would make allowance for the report to be redacted so as to leave out any material prejudicial to the Green investigation.

"The Conservative leadership hasn't revealed its tactics yet. One source told me the situation was changing "by the hour". In theory it's a House of Commons matter, which means that MPs should have a free vote, but of course the Green affair has become highly political. David Cameron wants the committee to report quickly – which is what many MPs thought the Speaker, Michael Martin, was promising when he proposed the idea in his statement on Wednesday – but I get the impression that there is no enthusiasm to go into battle under a banner held aloft by Cash. Further amendments could be tabled. The Tories are also talking to the Lib Dems. Nick Clegg has said he will boycott the committee, but I'm told that threat only applies to the committee as proposed by Harman. If Harman's motion gets defeated, and an alternative committee gets set up with a slightly different remit, then the Lib Dems are expected to take part.

"Labour still has a decent majority and normally Harman would expect to win. But some Labour MPs are opposed to the inquiry being postponed and it must be at least possible that a Commons majority could coalesce behind some alternative proposal. Interestingly, Martin himself is thought to be opposed to Harman's plan. On Wednesday and again on Thursday he kept dropping strong hints about how the government's motion was amendable. Monday's vote could be close."

5 Dec 2008 14:44:29

Debate continues on the Queen's Speech

Dominic_grieveNick_herbertYesterday saw the second day of debate on the Gracious Speech. The Home Secretary was in action again straight after fielding questions about Damian Green.

Unfortunately, very few MPs were present for much of what went on.

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve, who is on fire at the moment, spoke very persuasively.

"On the substance of what the Home Secretary had to say, although I can welcome some aspects of her speech, there are many others that I cannot, because the Government’s record on home affairs and justice is not a happy one and is at variance with the aspirations set out in the Queen’s Speech.

The Government have presided over the virtual doubling of violent crime since they were elected, while their incessant red tape and regulation have tied the hands of the police. Indeed, some announcements that are now being made on the subject are merely rolling back red tape and bureaucracy that the Government previously introduced.


The thirst for headlines and the inflation of ineffective bureaucracy and legislative hyperactivity distract the Government and successive Home Secretaries from the real job at hand: getting more police on the street with the single imperative of cutting crime, and a dedicated border police force to reverse our current vulnerability, which has seen the street value of cocaine and heroin slashed by almost half, while estimates show that the numbers of young women and girls trafficked into prostitution have quadrupled."

Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Nick Herbert wound up for the Tories, and also spoke with great verve.

"Yesterday we saw the Lord Chancellor, in all his finery, skilfully walking backwards, which he did most expertly. That was entirely appropriate, because retreat has been the story of the Prime Minister’s programme on constitutional renewal.

Back in July last year, when the new Prime Minister made his first statement to the House, he promised a

    “national debate...founded on the conviction that the best answer to disengagement from our democracy is to strengthen our democracy.”—[ Official Report, 3 July 2007; Vol. 462, c. 819.]

Constitutional change was not peripheral to the Government’s agenda; it was central to their programme—“founded on...conviction”. That conviction cannot have been very profound, because just 18 months later, the constitutional agenda has all but disappeared. It has become clear that the Prime Minister had no great vision of a new settlement, just the immediate political challenge of dissociating himself from his predecessor."

Good stuff from the Conservatives - but why were so few MPs present?

5 Dec 2008 11:57:35

Tory MPs slam Jacqui Smith over Damian Green arrest

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith came before the House of Commons yesterday to make a statement on the Damian Green arrest. She was very much on the defensive:

"As the statement issued by Sir David Normington on 28 November made clear, he was informed by the police at about 1.45 pm on 27 November that a search was about to be conducted of the home and offices of a member of the Opposition Front Bench. Sir David was subsequently told that an arrest had been made. This was the first time that anybody in the Home Office was informed that a Member of this House was the subject of the police investigation. I have made it clear that neither I nor any other Government Minister knew until after the arrest of the hon. Member that he—or any other hon. Member—was the subject of a police investigation or was to be arrested. I hope that those who have asserted the contrary will now withdraw their claims.

Let me be clear that even if I had been informed, I believe it would have been wholly inappropriate for me to seek to intervene in the operational decisions being taken by the police. I will not do that and I should not do that."

As Quentin Letts writes in the Daily Mail, Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve was ruthlessly efficient. This page has already carried his statement. One point that the Home Secretary made in response does need highlighting:

"The hon. and learned Gentleman asserted several times that “there is not the slightest evidence”. He does not know what evidence the police have. I do not know what evidence the police have—but I do know that it is wholly appropriate that the police should use their professional judgment to follow the evidence during the course of a police investigation without fear or favour."

Unfortunately for the Government, no-one is going to give them the benefit of the doubt. If no breach of national security is uncovered, they will look very foolish.

Other Tory MPs were furious too.

Continue reading "Tory MPs slam Jacqui Smith over Damian Green arrest" »

4 Dec 2008 13:28:41

Latest parliamentary developments on the Damian Green arrest

Two developments this morning:

  1. The 7-member committee announced by the Speaker yesterday may now not in fact meet for months, until after the police inquiry has finished - rather than being the "speedy and immediate" inquiry that was expected.
  2. The membership of the committee will not after all be the decision of the Speaker, but rather will reflect the composition of the House, presumably meaning that it will be made up of 4 Labour MPs, 2 Conservatives and 1 Liberal Democrat.

In the Commons earlier, Dominic Grieve was not short of further questions for Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith. Here's what he had to say:

“Mr Speaker, the issues at stake are serious.

They involve basic Ministerial oversight over counter-terrorism police operations against a Member of this House. Heavy-handed and incompetent at best, at worst an unwarranted assault on our democracy.

Let us be equally clear what is not at stake. We can all agree that MPs are not above the law and that the police have no place in politics.

Nor Mr Speaker has this got anything to do with national security. There is not the slightest hint of this and Her Majesty’s Opposition takes the integrity of official secrets as seriously as the government despite attempts by government spokespersons to smear and spin to the contrary.

The Home Secretary has regularly briefed me and my predecessor on matters of national security. Can she name one occasion where she has raised any concern that her confidence was not kept?

Can she now confirm that no known leaks from her department connected to the Honourable Member for Ashford relate to national security?

Mr Speaker, this episode has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with political embarrassment.

Nor is it about confidentiality in the workplace matters for which employment law provides a perfectly adequate remedy.

Continue reading "Latest parliamentary developments on the Damian Green arrest" »

4 Dec 2008 11:32:46

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."

Continue reading "The Speaker's statement on Damian Green" »

24 Oct 2008 16:55:13

The Government continues to dodge written questions

ParliamentIn the latest copy of Hansard, several more written questions have been inadequately answered.

There will be times when the Government really can't answer a question, or when it would be undiplomatic for it to do so, or when pulling the information together would be excessively costly. But those occasions are comparatively rare.

This post is longer than normal, but with good reason. It's time to spotlight what appears to be indefensible obsfucation. If anyone can suggest good reasons why the answers below were in fact satisfactory, we'd be delighted to see them.

There are some real gems, including this one from Douglas Carswell, Tory MP for Harwich:

"Mr. Carswell: To ask the Prime Minister how much champagne was ordered by the Prime Minister’s Office for consumption at events at (a) 10 Downing Street and (b) Chequers in each of the last six months. [226474]

The Prime Minister: The information requested is not held."

If this isn't a lie, and they really don't know how much they spent on bubbly, that's actually more horrifying than trying to cover it up.

Continue reading "The Government continues to dodge written questions" »

22 Oct 2008 11:51:09

Damian Green on immigration

Damian_greenIn contrast to the Government in recent days (and indeed years), Damian Green has outlined a clear strategy on immigration on behalf of the Conservatives. Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday in an Opposition Day debate, he highlighted the confusion caused by Phil Woolas over the weekend. He also made some specific proposals:

"A Conservative Government would set an annual limit on the number of people from outside the EU who are allowed to come here to work. Such a limit would aim at a substantially lower inflow than we have had in recent years. Economic benefit would be the key test on which individuals would be admitted and the limit would take account of wider societal effects such as housing, public service provision and community cohesion. Most years, we would expect there to be a positive level of migration into the UK, but it would be substantially lower than current levels. The limit would be set after consultation with employers, local authorities and major public service providers— [Interruption.] Ministers sat on the Front Bench are chuntering hard about consultation. I appreciate that they do not like listening to other people, but if they knew their own policies, they would know that they set up the migration advisory committee and the Migration Impacts Forum precisely to get the information—it is useful to have it—that would allow us to set a limit. Our policy is very similar to what happens in Australia, which has a points-based system, but also a limit."

This willingness to address a such a sensitive issue is commendable. As Mr Green pointed out later on, if mainstream politicians will not tackle difficult issues, less agreeable people will.

Personal remark from Tom Greeves:

"As I indicated in my last post on immigration, I think the time will come when we will need to ask ourselves whether it makes sense to prioritise immigration from European Union member states over allowing in people from countries with which we have closer historical ties, or people who speak English, or people with specific skills. Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see the Conservatives using some of their Parliamentary time to raise what is beyond a pressing issue."