This is the Press Association report of today's proceedings in the Martyn Jones MP v Mail on Sunday Libel trial.
A young security guard told the High Court today how he was left "shocked and flustered" by a foul-mouthed outburst from a senior Labour MP. Chris Ham, 21, said that he had never seen Martyn Jones, who has held Clwyd South for 20 years, until the day he "politely" asked to see his pass at Portcullis House in Westminster in May last year.
"His immediate response was to tell me to f*** off and that he was a member of parliament. "I again asked politely, persisted. His second response was 'f*** off, you should know who I am, you don't have the right to question me, you are only security'." Mr Ham, a Metropolitan Police security officer, was giving evidence for Associated Newspapers which is being sued by Mr Jones for libel over two stories which appeared that month.
The 60-year-old MP has told Mr Justice Eady and a London jury that he was "flabbergasted" when he saw the claim in the Mail on Sunday that he had twice told Mr Ham to "f*** off" and was shouting and swearing at the top of his voice. His QC, Ronald Thwaites, said the newspaper had blown up a "trivial" exchange into a "full-scale international incident".
He said that when Mr Ham asked for the pass which, like many others, Mr Jones did not wear around his neck, the MP only said: "I don't give a s*** what you are. You should know who members of Parliament are," before showing his pass. Mr Thwaites said that Mr Jones regretted swearing at the guard and apologised to him shortly afterwards for his discourtesy. Like many MPs, he feared that passes could be copied if they were seen, and that it was better for security to identify MPs by their faces.
Mr Ham said that the MP "reluctantly" produced his pass from his wallet after he asked him the third time. He said that Mr Jones's tone of voice was normal at first but he then became more aggressive. "I wouldn't say he was shouting. He was sort of dismissing me, waving his arm at me."
Mr Ham said that he thoroughly enjoyed his job, which he had been in for six months at the time, and had never been sworn at before although he frequently had to ask for passes. He was "a bit shocked" and "a bit flustered" by the incident and made a note of it shortly afterwards. Before that, Mr Jones had approached him again and apologised. "He said 'I'm sorry about before. I was having a bad day'. I think he was sorry."
Mr Thwaites has said that the article, "Labour MP in foul-mouthed outburst at police guard", contained a dozen untruths and was a vindictive attack on a hard-working conscientious career politician. Mr Jones is also claiming damages over an item in the newspaper's Black Dog column, a week later, which called him "ludicrous" and claimed that his excuse for not wearing his pass was that if al Qaida got in, they would have been able to identify him.
Bernard Livesey QC, for Associated Newspapers, which denies libel and says its story was substantially true, said that Mr Jones was incorrect if he thought that his beard, bow tie and glasses made him known to every security officer. "For all Mr Ham knew, Mr Jones could have been a terrorist wearing a suit or just someone wandering around trying to get information he shouldn't have access to."
He pointed out that the day of the incident was a Wednesday, when there was heightened security because of Prime Minister's Question Time. He added that, even on Mr Jones's account of events, the MP had verbally abused Mr Ham. Earlier, Bob Ainsworth, the Government Deputy Chief Whip, said in evidence that his office was trying to encourage MPs to wear their passes despite resistance from a number of them. "We don't want security officers to be aggressive or unreasonable but we don't want MPs wandering around without any identification, effectively damaging the security of the House."