David Davis MP

1 Feb 2011 11:27:24

Tory backbenchers will reportedly get a free vote when votes for prisoners are first debated next week

By Jonathan Isaby

Prisoners votes Next week sees the first parliamentary debate on whether to give the vote to prisoners - not in government time, but initiated by Tory MPs David Davis and Dominic Raab, along with Jack Straw, in time allocated by the backbench business committee.

The motion before the Commons - to be debated next Thursday - reads:

"That this House notes the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in Hirst v the United Kingdom in which it held that there had been no substantive debate by members of the legislature on the continued justification for maintaining a general restriction on the right of prisoners to vote; acknowledges the treaty obligations of the UK; is of the opinion that legislative decisions of this nature should be a matter for democratically elected lawmakers; and supports the current situation in which no sentenced prisoner is able to vote except those imprisoned for contempt, default or on remand."

The Government has indicated that it is very reluctantly intending to implement the ECHR ruling granting votes for prisoners sentenced to four years or less (although there has been speculation that it could be restricted further).

However, minsters are yet to formally set the wheels in motion and in the mean time it is an issue which has been causing massive dissent throughout the Conservative parliamentary party, even among usually loyal backbenchers.

Paul Waugh from PoliticsHome reports this morning that backbenchers will be granted licence to show their opposition to the proposal:

Tory backbenchers are set to be allowed a free vote on a Commons motion opposing prisoner voting rights, PoliticsHome.come has learned. Faced with possibly his biggest ever rebellion by Conservative MPs, David Cameron is looking closely at allowing the Government payroll vote to abstain on the motion.

The Liberal Democrats have long believed in giving the vote to prisoners, so can be expected to oppose the motion as above, but I can't imagine that they'll be joined by many others.

1.45pm update:

James Landale from the BBC is now reporting news that might make the issue give the Governmnt a headache even sooner:

The government has been warned it must give prisoners in Scotland and Wales the right to vote in May's elections or risk compensation claims for allegedly breaking human rights laws. Ministers had thought a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights would force them to give prisoners the vote only in Westminster or European parliamentary elections. But giving evidence to MPs lawyers said the ruling applied to all elections that create a legislature, such as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

More here. Meanwhile the Telegraph suggests that the nationwide AV referendum may come under this ruling too...

9 Dec 2010 18:43:11

A full breakdown of who voted which way and who rebelled in tonight's votes

By Jonathan Isaby

Both divisions tonight - on increasing the upper tuition fees limit to £9,000 and on raising the cap on basic tuition fees to £6,000 - saw identical results: 323 votes in favour and 302 votes against.

Factoring in two tellers from each side, you had 325 MPs backing the Government line and 304 opposing it, meaning that 629 out of a possible 640 MPs participated in the divisions (the remaining ten are accounted for by the 5 Sinn Fein MPs, the Speaker, 3 Deputy Speakers and the vacancy in Oldham East and Saddleworth).

So who voted which way?


297 of the 305 Conservative MPs, comprising:

  • All 77 Ministers and Whips
  • 39 PPSs (no longer including Lee Scott, who resigned to abstain)
  • 181 of the 189 backbenchers

Liberal Democrats
28 of the 57 Lib Dem MPs, comprising:

  • 17 of the 18 Ministers and Whips (Chris Huhne being at the conference in Cancun)
  • The 3 remaining PPSs (no longer including Mike Crockart and Jenny Willott, who resigned to vote against)
  • 8 of the 36 backbenchers (namely: Sir Alan Beith, Tom Brake, Malcolm Bruce, Don Foster, Stephen Gilbert, John Hemming, David Laws and David Ward)


  • 6 Conservative MPs (namely: Philip Davies, David Davis, Julian Lewis, Jason McCartney, Andrew Percy and Mark Reckless)
  •  21 Liberal Democrat MPs (namely: Annette Brooke, Sir Menzies Campbell, Mike Crockart, Tim Farron, Andrew George, Mike Hancock, Julian Huppert, Charles Kennedy, John Leech, Stephen Lloyd, Greg Mulholland, John Pugh, Alan Reid, Dan Rogerson, Bob Russell, Adrian Sanders, Ian Swales, Mark Williams, Roger WIlliams, Jenny Willott, Simon Wright)
  • All 253 Labour MPs
  • 7 of the 8 DUP MPs
  • All 6 SNP MPs
  • All 3 Plaid Cymru MPs
  • All 3 SDLP MPs
  • The 1 Alliance MP
  • The 1 Green MP
  • All 3 Independent MPs


  • 2 Conservative MPs (namely: Tracey Crouch and Lee Scott)
  • 8 Liberal Democrat MPs (namely: Loreley Burt, Martin Horwood, Simon Hughes, Chris Huhne, Tessa Munt, Sir Robert Smith, John Thurso, Stephen Williams)
  • 1 DUP MP (William McCrea)

Of the six Tory rebels, most have quite a lot of "form" when it comes to walking through the lobbies against the Government line:

  • Philip Davies - Tonight's rebellions were his 26th and 27th rebellious votes
  • David Davis - Tonight's rebellions were his 13th and 14th rebellious votes
  • Julian Lewis - Tonight's rebellions were his 11th and 12th rebellious votes
  • Andrew Percy - Tonight's rebellions were his 13th and 14th rebellious votes
  • Jason McCartney - Tonight's rebellions were his 4th and 5th rebellious votes
  • Mark Reckless - Tonight's rebellions were his 11th and 12th rebellious votes

Of the two Tory abstainers, as a PPS until yesterday, Lee Scott, has no history of rebellion; meanwhile, Tracey Crouch, who also abstained, has still never actively voted in a division lobby against the government line.

2 Dec 2010 12:52:19

David Davis calls for reform of the libel laws to protect "the less wealthy and the less powerful"

By Jonathan Isaby

DAVIS DAVID official Last night former shadow home secretary David Davis secured an adjournment debate to call for reform of British libel laws.

He contended that in recent years they have been used to suppress free speech, with the rich and powerful using the libel laws "to intimidate the less wealthy and the less powerful". In particular, he cited examples of foreign nationals using British courts to sue foreign parties from third countries:

"Those rich men each brought their cases under the English judicial system, rather than in the appropriate forum, because English libel law is complex, clumsy, expensive and draconian. It is 140 times more expensive to defend a libel case in England than in other European nations. As a result, it favours the wealthy man who has the most financial stamina and can afford the most expensive lawyers. Although libel tourism is not the most important weakness in English libel law, it is the starkest symptom of how unfair it can be, compared with every other jurisdiction in the modern world.

"Perhaps the best domestic example of this grotesquely expensive system is the Naomi Campbell case. A newspaper wrote about her drug problem. It was sued and lost on the grounds of breach of confidentiality. Although the story was true, the legal fees alone cost more than £1 million.

"How did all that come about? English libel law was largely developed centuries ago by English judges, as an alternative to duelling to protect the honour of gentlemen. I am sure that no Member wants to see Hampstead Heath littered with the bodies of dead journalists, but I am not sure how much of an improvement that new law was. It has been compounded with undoubtedly well intentioned European Union and European Court of Human Rights law, and we have ended up with dreadful unintended consequences."

He went on to cite concern about the "super-injunction" and the use of English libel law by powerful commercial interests "to suppress legitimate discussion of scientific fact and medical effectiveness." He said that the effect of "lawfare" is "to chill free speech in science, medicine and many other areas".

Mr Davis admitted that there was no single, simple solution to the issues he raised, but concluded with the following thoughts:

"The cost of defending libel cases should be brought down. One step would be not to remove jury trial, but to introduce a tribunal process to deal with all but the most serious cases... The law should focus on protecting individual reputation, without allowing heavy-handed commercial intimidation. One step towards that might be not to allow commercial companies above a certain size - in fact, really rather a small size - to bring such suits unless they can, in advance, demonstrate financial damage.

"The public interest defence... is too vague and unhelpful to authors of legitimate criticism. A stronger and clearer defence than that provided by the so-called Reynolds defence should be instituted. In particular, there should be a broader definition of what constitutes fair comment. In the light of what I have said about scientific and medical concerns, such a definition should be designed to exclude scientific and medical dispute from the courts completely. There should be intelligent limits on what constitutes multiple publication. For a court case to be brought in Britain, a significant proportion - certainly more than 10% - of the publication should have been in Britain."

Read his whole speech here.

16 Jul 2010 07:55:15

Dominic Raab and David Davis want to know whether the Government will sign up to the European Investigation Order

By Jonathan Isaby

Within the next fortnight the Government has to decide whether to opt in to the European Investigation Order.

The Telegraph covered the issue here last week, citing the concerns of civil liberties groups that signing up to the EIO would mean the authorities in other EU states being able to give orders to the British police.

According to the Telegraph:

"Under the terms of the order, any prosecutor or police officer in all 27 members of the EU could be given the power to issue demands for evidence, regardless of the cost involved. Judges in this country would be powerless to block the requests, even if they related to offences that are considered trivial in this country. Overstretched police resources could then be expended on demands to launch lengthy surveillance operations, take DNA samples or secure documents such as bank statements or phone records."

Yesterday two prominent civil libertarians on the Conservative backbenches raised the matter at Business Questions, with the leader of the House, Sir George Young, unable to explain the Government's intentions at this juncture. 

Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton): The European investigation order would allow police and prosecutors throughout Europe to order British police to collect and hand over evidence. Fair Trials International and Justice are concerned that the measure would put great pressure on our hard-pressed police forces. Britain has until 28 July to decide whether to opt in or, like Denmark, to opt out. Will the Leader of the House indicate when the Government’s decision will be made, and will the House have an opportunity to debate the measure in advance?

Sir George Young: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He says that the Government must decide by 28 July what action to take. I will certainly ascertain from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Home Office, whichever Department is the appropriate one, what action they propose to take in response to my hon. Friend’s question.

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden): Will the Leader of the House reconsider his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab)? The European investigation order allows foreign authorities to give instructions to the British police and allows foreign police forces to operate within the United Kingdom. That is a matter for decision by the House of Commons, not simply for notification by a Department of state.

Sir George Young: I understand my right hon. Friend’s concern. I think I said in response to my hon. Friend that I would contact the relevant Department and see what action the Government propose to take or recommend to the House before 28 July, which I understand is the operative date.

15 Jul 2010 12:08:06

MPs vote to extend 28-day detention for terrorist suspects for another six months

By Jonathan Isaby

Yesterday saw a debate in Parliament over whether to approve the order to extend 28-day detention for terrorist suspects for another six months.

Theresa May Big BenWhilst she has previously indicated that personally she favours a reduction to 14 days, Home Secretary Theresa May proposed the motion, saying that she did not wish at this stage to pre-empt the result of the current counter-terrorism review:

"I want to make it absolutely clear to the House that I consider the 28-day limit to be a temporary measure, and I want it brought to an end once I have completed my review. Since the power to detain for 28 days was passed by Parliament and came into force in July 2006, 11 people have been held for more than 14 days, eight were charged with terrorist-related offences, and four were found guilty. Of those, six people have been held for between 27 and 28 days, three were charged with terrorist-related offences, and two were found guilty. No suspect has been held for more than 14 days since July 2007. When one considers that in the 12 months ending in December 2009 28 terrorism-related trials were completed, with 93% convictions, including six life sentences, it is clear to me that the power to detain for up to 28 days is not needed routinely for the police to investigate, interrogate and charge terrorist suspects.

"The possibility remains that in some extreme circumstances it might be necessary to detain some suspects beyond 14 days, but those circumstances remain rare and extreme, and we need to be sure that the powers are never abused. That is why we need to take time to consider pre-charge detention as part of the review of counter-terrorism powers. Therefore, in moving today’s motion, I am asking hon. Members not to support 28 days indefinitely, nor to support 28 days for 12 months, as was envisaged in the Terrorism Act 2006, but to support a renewal for six months while the counter-terrorism review considers how we can reduce the limit."

"The review of counter-terrorism powers will, as I said yesterday, be informed by the principles of the coalition Government. Those principles—shared principles—are based on a respect for our ancient civil liberties and individual freedom. There is nothing we take more seriously than our duty to protect the public, but in doing so we will not, as the previous Government did, forget to defend our way of life."

In making the case against retaining 28-day detention, former shadow home secretary David Davis discussed the details of what happened surrounding the Heathrow plot, aka Operation Overt:

Continue reading "MPs vote to extend 28-day detention for terrorist suspects for another six months" »

19 Jan 2010 22:02:37

Monmouth MP David Davies does not share the civil libertarian credentials of his near-namesake

Picture 5 Earlier I posted some extracts from the speech made by shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, during the Second Reading debate of the Crime and Security Bill in the Commons yesterday.

Later in the debate came a contribution from Monmouth's Conservative MP, David Davies, a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee and a special constable, who is occasionally confused with his near-namesake, the former shadow home secretary.

But from reading the opening paragraphs of his speech, it seems fair to conclude that the Welshman does not share the civil libertarian instincts of David Davis. Here's what he told the House:

"Most of the Bill's provisions ultimately come down to a simple argument about the price of civil liberties as against the price of security. While travelling into London on the tube this morning, I was reading the dreadful stories of what is going on in Haiti. I suppose that at present the people in that country have the ultimate in civil liberties, in that they can go out and do and say what they want and steal what they want, but is anyone more secure for it? No, they are not. Would anyone want to live in Haiti at present, or in any of the other failed states of the world? No, they would not.

"Mention was made earlier of one of the Gulf states, where apparently there is a universal database. I forget the name of the country, but I remember thinking that it is a country where many British people and other westerners have gone to work. They are perfectly happy in that environment. It may not be the paradise of a Liberal Democrat-run council in the desert, but people feel very safe regardless of the level of civil liberties they apparently enjoy.

"What I am trying to say is that, in many ways, security is more important to us than civil liberties. Security has to come first. We all remember that in the '70s we used to say, "Better dead than red", but the reality is that I would prefer just about anything to being dead or to living in a failed state, even if it meant giving up some of my civil liberties."

Jonathan Isaby

3 Nov 2009 09:10:01

Leading Conservatives back Home Secretary on dismissal of Professor Nutt

Chris Grayling: "Independent scientific advice is important, but those who take on formal roles with the Government have to be extremely cautious about the things that they say. Professor Nutt’s comments earlier this year, comparing the risks of ecstasy with those of horse riding, were particularly ill judged. The issues that the council deals with are highly sensitive, and there are very divergent opinions out there, so there is a clear responsibility to act cautiously, and be mindful of the fact that messages given by official advisers can and will influence the behaviour of the public."

Sir Patrick Cormack: "As the Home Secretary comes under attack, will he remind himself that it was Churchill who said that scientists should be on tap and not on top?"

David Davis: "May I give unequivocal support not only to the Home Secretary’s decision but to the reasoning behind it? He is obviously familiar with Professor Robin Murray’s comments, which imply that the ACMD did not do a very good job in surveying the evidence previously. I know that the Home Secretary will want to be diplomatic to the council now, but will he please ensure that he also takes evidence from others when he makes his decisions in future?"

More in Hansard. Watch Alan Johnson defend his decision.

8 Jul 2009 08:43:16

David Davis tells Commons that British authorities connived in sending terror suspect into hands of Pakistan investigators who removed his fingernails

In the Commons yesterday David Davis MP raised the alleged case of a man who had been tortured with the knowledge of Britain's intelligence services.

DAVIS-DAVID-208 Highlights of his statement below:

Fifteen British citizens and residents claim to have been tortured by foreign agencies with knowledge of British state: "In the last year, there have been at least 15 cases of British citizens or British residents claiming to be tortured by foreign intelligence agencies with the knowledge, complicity and, in some cases, presence of British intelligence officers. One case—that of Binyam Mohammed—has been referred to the police by the Attorney-General, which implies that there is at least a prima facie case to answer. The most salient others include Moazzamm Begg, Tariq Mahmoud, Salahuddin Amin and Rashid Rauf, all in Pakistan, Jamil Rahman in Bangladesh, Alam Ghafoor in United Arab Emirates, and Azhar Khan and others in Egypt."

Rangzieb Ahmed is a terrorist: "I should say that the individual whose case I am going to describe is not someone for whom I have any natural sympathy. He is a convicted—indeed, self-confessed—terrorist. So what I am talking about today is just as much about defending our own civilised standards as it is about deploring what was done to this man in the name of defending our country."

Continue reading "David Davis tells Commons that British authorities connived in sending terror suspect into hands of Pakistan investigators who removed his fingernails" »

18 May 2009 11:57:34

The Commons must debate Douglas Carswell's motion of no confidence

Over on his blog Douglas Carswell MP has published his motion of no confidence in the Speaker and the list of supporting MPs:

"That this House has no confidence in Mr Speaker and calls for him to step down; notes that Mr Speaker has failed to provide leadership in matters relating to hon. Members' expenses; believes that a new Speaker urgently needs to be elected by secret ballot, free from manipulation by party Whips, under Standing Order No. 1B; and believes that a new Speaker should proceed to reform the House in such a way as to make it an effective legislature once again."
  1. Douglas Carswell
  2. Kate Hoey
  3. Norman Lamb
  4. Richard Bacon
  5. David Davis
  6. Philip Hollobone
  7. Paul Flynn
  8. Gordon Prentice
  9. Richard Shepherd
  10. Philip Davies
  11. John Hemming
  12. Jo Swinson
  13. Norman Baker
  14. Lynne Featherstone
  15. Stephen Williams

There is talk that the Commons may not even debate the motion. That would be a mistake. The issue needs to be resolved one way or the other.

Tim Montgomerie

23 Apr 2009 13:16:44

Ming Campbell calls for debate on Damian Green

Damian Green Former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell has tabled an Early Day Motion on Damian Green. It has been signed by Michael Howard, Bill Cash, Peter Bottomley, Bernard Jenkin and David Davis.

Herewith the text of EDM 1307:

"That this House notes the statement of the Director of Public Prosecutions on 16 April 2009 announcing his decision that no charges would be brought against the hon. Member for Ashford in relation to the documents leaked and stating that, `Mr Green's purpose in using the documents was apparently to hold the Government to account'; and calls for the House to be given the opportunity to debate a motion to refer the matter to the Committee on Standards and Privileges."

Update: Alan Duncan and Bernard Jenkin both raised this matter at Business Questions today - and got a rise out of Harriet Harman.

Mr Duncan said:

"Most of us in the House will be pleased that the case of the arrest of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) has now been satisfactorily resolved. Even though the issue became rather heated, surely we should now stand back and study the implications of what happened. May I therefore ask the Leader of the House to reflect on early-day motion 1307?


Will the Leader of the House support the motion that was originally tabled on the Order Paper before the Easter recess to ensure that the House can refer this matter to the Committee on Standards and Privileges as soon as possible? Now is the best time to learn the lessons of this affair so that all the confusion can be cleared up for the future. It is no good her saying that the Attorney-General’s opinion was that there was no confusion, because there was. There is a perfectly good process available to us, and we should invoke it; will she confirm that she will co-operate in doing so?"

The Leader of the House of Commons replied:

"Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman asked about the arrest of the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) and the issues of parliamentary privilege that arose from it. The House has already made a resolution to refer the matter to a Committee of the Speaker, and I do not think that it would be a good idea to set up a twin-track approach. All the issues about entry on to the premises of Parliament, the searching of parliamentary offices and constituency correspondence and what is, or should be, available to the court can be considered by the Speaker’s Committee, which the House agreed should start its work after the criminal proceedings had come to a conclusion. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should set up a twin-track approach and a separate inquiry into the same issues via the Standards and Privileges Committee.

Alan Duncan: Different issues.

Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman says that, but he would need to explain why the Speaker’s Committee could not consider the issues that he is concerned about and believes need to be looked into. I am obviously keen for the House to be able to have all the issues that it wants resolved looked into, and I have no vested interest in the House not looking into them and coming to a satisfactory conclusion. I just do not want there to be a twin-track proposal or for us to undermine a resolution that the House has already made at your request, Mr. Speaker, that there should be a Speaker’s Committee to look into the matter."

Continue reading "Ming Campbell calls for debate on Damian Green" »

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" »

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 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" »