Monday, January 26, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Daniel Kawczynski: "The Speaker Has Let Me Down"

Daniel Kawczynski MP writes exclusively for the readers of Iain Dale's Diary. In this heartfelt article he declares that the Speaker of the House of Commons has let him down and that the Speaker has banned the Serjeant at Arms from discussing last week's issues with him.

By Daniel Kawczynski MP

When I entered the House of Commons nearly four years ago for the first time as an MP, I was very much in awe of the role of the Speaker. I was impressed by the idea of the independence of this position; whether Labour or Conservative, Speakers down the ages have shown an impressive outward appearance of impartiality, This concept is very important for a junior Opposition backbench MP. No matter what issue or controversy arises the Speaker can act in good faith to resolve disputes and ensure that blockages and frustrations are minimised.

Mr Martin, the current Speaker, has shown a perfectly amiable attitude to me up until now. He smiled pleasantly from time to time and can sometimes restore order in a delicate and yet very effective way. I remember when at PMQs we were having a very heated debate over the tragic death of Baby P. Tempers were high and he managed to calm things down by using the phrase that ‘we must remember that a child has gone before us’. That was a highly skilled way of bringing the robust and increasingly ill mannered debate to some sort of civility.

I have always been concerned about the limited access that we have to the Speaker. He is of course a very busy man but over the last four years I can remember only one occasion when I and a selection of fellow Conservative MPs were called in to see him to discuss issues and that was very soon after the 2005 election. Perhaps the Speaker’s office could organise more of these discussions so that MPs have the opportunity of properly putting their general concerns to the Speaker. It is not a suitable substitute to say that from time to time we can meet him at a reception or drinks party as these occasions are not generally conducive to raising serious issues or seeking clarification and guidance on confidential and serious matters,

My confidence in the Speaker was badly shaken last week. On Wednesday, January 21st I raised a point of order which expressed my deep concern about an incident earlier that evening. Whilst I was speaking in the Chamber, I received an alarming text message from my researcher saying that a Police Officer was in my office and was threatening to seize a constituent’s letter addressed to me. I was shocked by this and abandoning the debate, left the Chamber immediately after finishing my speech to find a Police Officer in my office.

After the Damian Green debacle, the revised procedure for the police had been clearly outlined by the Speaker and I quote from his statement, “a Police Officer needs to have the authority of the Serjeant at Arms before entering an MP’s office”. In this instance the Police Officer had not notified the Serjeant at Arms, nor me, that she was going to visit my office. It transpired that the Police Officer had entered my office and asked a young intern to find her the document she was seeking. When I finally arrived in my office to meet with the Police Officer she had already had sight of the document she wanted. I felt that as the issue being investigated was of such importance that I must reluctantly allow the Police Officer to have the letter. The division bell had rung whilst I was discussing the case with her and so I quickly had to decide what to do. I was on a three line whip to vote as it was an opposition day motion. Clearly the situation was not conducive at all to discussing such a serious matter with a Police Officer. Why could she have not taken the time to arrange to meet with me directly at a mutually convenient time to sit down and raise the issue with me? That way I would have been more than happy to help with her enquiries and discuss releasing whatever material she needed. I would then have had time to seek legal advice.

In behaving in the way she did, the Police Officer broke the rules as set out by the Speaker, put pressure on an intern to find her what she was after, threatened to seize the document and disrupted my work in the Chamber. Fortunately, my researcher had the presence of mind to find me in the Chamber and alert me as to what was happening. I was put in a much weaker position than if the procedures had been followed.

On Thursday the Speaker rebuked me for raising the point of order, criticising me for being “hasty”. He asserted in his statement that the Police Officer arrived by appointment. This is simply not the case; there was no appointment and she arrived at my office after telephoning less than five minutes before. Whilst I appreciate that my staff were told that the police were coming to talk to them, I absolutely do not accept that they were doing so by appointment. The police informed my young researcher that they would be coming and did not seek any agreement. As I was speaking in the Chamber, my researcher obviously could not get hold of me to try and come to the office in order for me to be present when the police came.

In approaching my staff directly, the police put them under undue pressure which they should not have had to bear, and in asking my staff to hand over documents, the Police Officer in question was asking my researcher to make a decision which simply was not his to make. My team are young, and still learning, and I am extremely protective of them. My researcher took exactly the correct course of action in refusing to hand over the letter when he was told it could be seized and in coming to get me from the Chamber. With the benefit of hindsight, I have now advised my staff that should another Police Officer request to see them in my office they should refuse until I have had a chance to meet with the Serjeant at Arms to discuss whether or not we should agree to such a request.

I hope that readers will appreciate how closely MPs have to guard the confidence of their constituents. I deal on a daily basis with highly confidential personal documents, and my constituents as well as those of every other Member of this House must be certain that their personal information will be viewed only by their Member of Parliament and his staff. The police action on Wednesday immediately called this certainty into question. Of course we all want to help the Police to carry out their jobs effectively. Handing over documents is however a very complicated issue and has potentially huge implications. The matter in hand although serious did not have an immediate life threatening nature to it, so I am sure the police officer could have waited for a few extra hours until the proper procedures had been carried out.

I was flabbergasted by the Speaker’s statement to the House when he said that I had rushed to a conclusion before making my Point of Order. I understand well the police were doing their job, and they were undertaking an important investigation with a national security undertone. I do feel however, that in putting pressure on my staff to hand over a document which was not theirs to give, the police acted in a way not befitting this house. It appears the Speaker wishes to protect the police even when they are not following the strict procedures he himself had laid out only weeks before.

I was so concerned over this matter that on Thursday I met the Serjeant at Arms, as well as with Chief Superintendent Bateman, the most senior Police Officer on the Parliamentary estate. Having listened to my concerns, they were in agreement with me about how serious the police action was on Wednesday, and about its implications for the work undertaken by all Members of the House. Chief Superintendent Bateman admitted that a mistake had been made and that from now on the proper procedures would be followed. The Serjeant at Arms came up to me on Wednesday night after my Point of Order deeply shocked at what had happened and embarrassed to find that the Police had again not consulted her before entering an MPs office. In the Thursday meeting she promised me that changes would be made. I suggested to her that she has the pivotal role in all of this and must be the very heart of protecting MPs’ offices from inappropriate entry.

My understanding from the previous ruling on Damian Green was that the Police could not enter an MP’s office without first consulting the Serjeant at Arms, indeed the Speaker stated clearly in his statement on the Damian Green Affair that: “A warrant will always be required when a search of a Member’s office, or access to a Member’s parliamentary papers, is sought. Every case must be referred for my personal decision, as it is my responsibility.” As this did not happen before the Police entered my office and as the Police Officer put my staff under huge pressure to hand over confidential documents without first consulting me, I felt that the Police Officer had broken the rules, I therefore had no option but to raise the issue as a Point of Order. I am therefore very disappointed and concerned that the Speaker labelled my actions as being hasty.

Finally, at the first opportunity on Thursday morning, members of staff and I contacted the Speaker’s office to request a meeting. I had emailed the details of my concerns to his office on Wednesday night just after 10pm. Despite several calls we were unable to secure a meeting. Obviously such a meeting would have given me the opportunity to clearly set out to the Speaker personally and directly why I felt compelled to raise the Point or Order. I am deeply concerned that he made a statement about my actions without allowing me to put my side of the case and this greatly disappoints me. It is this action by the Speaker which has so shaken my confidence in him. How could he pronounce on my case when he did not even meet with me or my staff to hear out concerns over the incident?

The Speaker has to hear a lot of Points of Order over the course of a year. The mechanism can sometimes be abused as a quick and easy way of raising an issue. Nine times out of ten the Speaker says that whatever has been raised is not under the guidelines of a Point of Order and moves on. What the Speaker has to realise is that even if you have heard 10, or 100 or 200 irrelevant Points of Order, a genuine one will always come up from time to time and it must not be taken lightly. The Speaker has let me down and I hope he will restore my faith in him.

I have now been told that the Serjeant at Arms will not see me to discuss my concerns further as the Speaker has stated that the matter is closed. I find this deeply disturbing.



Daniel Kawczynski MP

41 comments:

Andy said...

You buckled like a little girl. Get a backbone man.

John said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BSH said...

I sympathise with your plight Kawczynski, but as a Scotsman I warn you that the Labour Mafia do not like those drawing attention to their abuses and corruption of power.

Mr Mr said...

Oh my goodness me Iain. He just comes across as a little schoolgirl.

Your exclusive just digs his grave.

Martin Day said...

Labour have fiddled with Liberty, Democracy and now the economy! We get no pleasure from your feddling! Indeed those of us on the dole are doomed! Just like Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam and the Labour government!

What they get their grubby hands on next i do not know before the election! Old Labour were never as bad as this new Labour lot - surely they had some principle/honesty?

Raedwald said...

Daniel;

An old boss of mine warned me many years ago that "Everyone makes a mistake. Once."

That you will now be amongst the foremost defenders of our hard won privileges for our MPs is probably a good thing. From time to time events that cause MPs to remind themselves that they are not part of the Executive are good events.

Can I suggest you now move to discuss with other MPs the pros and cons of Parliament creating its own police force? Perhaps like the MOD Police or the Civil Nuclear Police, but reporting only to the Speaker and Lord Speaker, or Serjeant at Arms and Black Rod. Armed, of course, and with a jurisdiction limited to the Parliamentary estate.

This will take time, but such measures could be in place by the time Speaker Martin and Jill Pay have faded completely from the public memory.

May I also suggest you put the Speaker's and Serjeant's indifference behind you, and spend your energy instead on measures that will help prevent others repeating your mistake.

Geoffrey G Brooking said...

Forget what John?

The man has done nothing wrong but has been let down by the system.

A system you helped put in place John.

an ex-apprentice said...

If Daniel Kawczynski MP, after 4 years experience in the House, still retains even a vestige of confidence in Speaker Martin, then it does not say much for his judgement.

Martin's treatment of his staff, the continuing expenses disgrace, the Damien Green affair, together with his rambling, incoherent and all too frequently partisan rulings have made this Speaker the most despised in living memory.

Even by random choice you would expect Martin to make a correct decision 50% of the time: he can't even manage that.

Get off your bloody knees Kawczynski, and tell the man precisely what he's good for.

DespairingLiberal said...

The nub of this seems to be that the Speaker gave a hasty answer to his POO - this may either be because he was under pressure, he is old and evasive, he is silly - or, more worryingly, because he had been pre-briefed about the police action and was ready to brush off the complaint.

I think it's important that we know which it is.

If it's the former, then this MP has little to complain about and is basically being a silly, whining baby.

If it's the latter, then the whole thing looks very different and something like a continued Contempt of Parliament of the worst sort.

Parliament reacted too softly in the Damian Green affair. Backbenchers should have rallied together cross-party to defend their ancient rights and should have summonsed the various parties on pain of imprisonment. If the police had been unwilling to help, civilian Marshalls of Parliament could have been conscripted en-masse to demand their presence at a Grand Committee.

Freedom is always eroded one whimper at a time.

Time will tell. If we have more of the same, the time for talk will have ended and the time for people's action to defend Parliament will become clear.

Either we want our democracy or we don't care.

Chris Paul said...

Andy is right Daniel. You buckled. Why should the speaker see you before speaking when you went and mouthed off without consulting him?

This is a thousand words or so too long. You should say:

"I goofed"

With good grace.

Unsworth said...

Well at the very least Jill Pay is sheltering behind the despotic Speaker. Any honourable man would have done the MP the courtesy at least of hearing what he had to say. But to simply make this ruling in the face of a simple request for a meeting is naked abuse of power.

Frankly I couldn't care less about the detail of the complaint, but I certainly do care about the blind arrogance of the Speaker. He is, after all, the servant of The Commons - not that he'd really understand what that entails.

andrewha said...

I think that there is a genuine issue here, leaving aside Daniel Kawczynski balls or lack thereof in dealing with the police.

If he wants to pursue it further then the HoC Commission - which has two Conservative members who I believe are Theresa May and David Maclean - would be the most effective advocates for him. However, regulating police access to MPs' offices is a matter of all-party concern.

dmc said...

Well im glad we are not all like the butch ruf tuf sneerers commenting on here(especially as they were not the ones facing police officers).What a delight you must be to live with as you obviously have never made a mistake.
The fact remains the speaker is trying to smother it.Perhaps you would rather it was.

PhilC said...

I think we should have concerns generally about police actions, accountability of state agencies and parliamentary democracy - but, however much Iain tries to puff it, this example is pretty weak .
So many many words and we end up with Tory MP not happy with the Speaker, shock.
I am sure Danny Boy will find another way of getting us to pay attention to him in the future.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Iain Dale said...

John, Thank you for alerting me to The Penguin comment. I have now deleted it.

Grim Reaper said...

Oddball who once had confidence in Speaker now says he feels betrayed shocker!

I think Fleet Street can sleep easy tonight...

Richard said...

For Christ's sake, what relevance does Mr Kawczynski's own action, which he regrets and has accepted he made the wrong decision in the brief time he had, have to the matter? Whatever he did is between him, the police and his constituent. Michael Martin's dreadful response goes to the heart of parliamentary independence.

Speaker Martin has never been up to the job. Every time anyone says so he hides behind childish claims that the mean people are being snobby towards him. No, Mr Speaker, they just recognise that you have no idea how to fulfil the roles of your office. You should resign forthwith.

Guthrum said...

Daniel, you let yourself down and worse still you let us all down.

We rely on the Members to defend our freedoms from the unelected police. If you cannot defend youself with a swift ' get out of my office', you are very little use to the rest of us.

Stop trying to justify yourself, admit you failed, no shame in that, but re double your efforts to react to every incident of loss of personal liberty.

In that way you will regain your own self respect and gain some of ours.

This endless whining of how badly you were treated dimishes you.

I am not a Conservative supporter, but having been elected start acting like a man, admit your failure and fight bad.

The public have to do this everyday when harrassed by 'authority.

John Pickworth said...

"... the Speaker has stated that the matter is closed. I find this deeply disturbing."

As do we all.

Some might accuse you of making an unseemly fuss but I encourage you to continue making it. There's something really rotten going on here, the whole country can smell the stench. The mother of all Parliaments has lost its proud and independent voice under the boot of the ruling party. Welcome to the Duma.

Rog T said...

Not only does young Daniella show himself to be completely useless, he then shouts about it from the rooftops. Isn't there some kindly senior member of the Tory party somewhere who can have a quiet word in his ear. Sad, Very Very sad.

tory boys never grow up said...

It appears that Mr Kawczynski has now briefed his staff properly on how to handle these matters - perhaps he should ask himself why he didn't do so beforehand? Leaving young and inexperienced staff to handle such situations unbriefed is not the act of a good employer.

It is also interesting how his story of events is now different from that which he presented in the House - a case of speak first and then learn the facts afterwards. Perhaps the Speaker has a point about him speaking too early.

I suspect that the Police feel that they did make an appointment despite Mr Kawczynski's assertion to the contrary - they probably called up, asked his staff if they could come to the office and the staff then agreed that to do so in 5 minutes was ok.

Conand said...

tory boys never grow up said @ 10:59:

'It appears that Mr Kawczynski has now briefed his staff properly on how to handle these matters - perhaps he should ask himself why he didn't do so beforehand?'

Not true, the intern didn't hand over the document and alerted Daniel. That seems to be an absolutely correct course of action.

5 minutes warning isn't an appointment. The officer should have known how grave the issue was. It had only been all over the national news.
The Speaker has acted badly. He has let down the nation, Parliament and the Monarch whose primary duty is to ensure the proper functioning of Parliament.

Perhaps at the next appropriate reception or drinks party the Speaker should tell the Officers on the Parliamentary estate what the correct procedures are, and that they should actually follow them.

Sue said...

I admire his civility in this matter. He was probably also shocked that something like this had occurred again so soon after Mr Greene's arrest.

I would want to air my grievances too in a calm civil matter.

Mr Martin is an ignorant pig!

Watching Them, Watching Us said...

Metropolitan Police report on the Daniel Kawczynski allegations published by the Home Office, seems to make a distinction between the MP's Private Office and the shared "staff office in Lower Secretaries" where his research and secretarial staff were.

The Met Police seem to be implying that, in their view, this shared office is somehow not covered by Parliamentary Privilege, and confidential constituents correspondence can be seized there without a warrant.

Thatsnews said...

Well put, Daniel!

In this heartfelt article he declares that the Speaker of the House of Commons has let him down

It goes deeper than that. Speaker Martin has let himself down and let down the honourable tradition of hundreds of years of House of Speakers.

Martin has now in effect changed the rules to allow the police absolute power to march into the office of any MP whenever they feel like it. dowor

Thatsnews said...

Gosh. How nice that the Loyal Friends of Draper can find so much time to come here when there is so much work to do at Labourlist...

Not a sheep said...

You appear to be labouring (pun intended) under the misapprehension that the UK is still a free Country.

DespairingLiberal said...

I am pulling back after having red that Met report. It sounds like Mr Kawczynski has over-reacted and the Speaker may have been right to brush him off.

"Daniel Kawczynski MP
Between 2003 and December 2008, a series of 15 letters have been received
by Members of Parliament and other prominent people. As a result of the
contents of these letters, an investigation was launched by the Metropolitan
Police Service.
The Palace of Westminster is policed by a dedicated team of Police and
Security Officers. As a part of this command, there is a small unit comprising
four constables who undertake investigations and deal with matters such as
thefts from private offices, threatening letters received by members and other
confidential or sensitive inquiries in both Houses. These officers are highly
skilled and have been selected on the basis of their ability to undertake
enquiries discretely. The officers are located within an office in the Palace of
Westminster, are well known throughout the House speaking to Members and
their staff on a daily basis and are highly regarded. The good relationship
between these officers and Members and their staff has continued despite
recent events.
At 1750 on 21 January 2009, by appointment, one officer from this unit
attended the staff office in Lower Secretaries to speak with the staff of Daniel
Kawczynski MP (Shrewsbury and Atcham) to follow up the above
investigation. This was not the Member’s private office which is located in a
different part of the estate. The purpose of the meeting with the MP’s staff
was to ascertain whether they had received letters with similar handwriting to
those received as a part of the investigation. The officer explained the
purpose of her visit and a member of MP’s staff volunteered to look through a
pile of letters on a nearby desk. The member of staff found a letter with
similar handwriting and passed it to the officer. The officer asked whether she
could take it away for handwriting comparison.
At this point a second member of staff said that he would like to ask the
Member before releasing the letter. The officer agreed to wait while this was
done. The staff member went away but returned at 1820 stating that the
Member was in the chamber. The officer indicated to the staff that she felt that
she could take the item as evidence but recognised the position and agreed to
continue to wait for the consent of the Member.
Unbeknown to the officer, the Member was informed of the request by text
message and at about 1840, the Member returned to the office. The member
expressed his concern about the message he had received and the fact that
he had had to come out of the chamber. The officer apologised for any
inconvenience and reassured him that she had not ‘demanded’ anything or
required him to leave the chamber. The officer informed him of the
investigation and the purpose of the request. The Member acknowledged the
similarity in the writing between the suspect letter and the letter identified by
his member of staff, gave the letter to the officer and then left the office.
A copy of the letter was left with the Member’s staff and the original has now
been processed as a part of the investigation.
The officer was carrying out a routine crime enquiry and was inside the
Secretary’s office at the invitation of staff by appointment. Approaching
Members’ staff on this type of matter is a regular occurrence and at no time
did the officer search, or seek to search, the communal office."

Weygand said...

Our system of government works on selecting 646 representatives to make laws and govern the country.

One would imagine that it would the finest who would be selected for this role and that at the ratio MP:citizens of 1:100,000, our MPs would be very fine indeed.

One would imagine that they would be among our most experienced and enterprising and that their knowledge of the trust placed in them would make them courageous in our defence.

We do not expect emotional pleas for understanding nor to learn of the frisson experienced when the Speaker occasionally acknowledges them with a smile.

Every further announcement by this man suggests to me he is too callow, too fragile and too lacking in judgement to serve as an MP. He should shut up before he convinces too many others of the same thing.

troymolloy said...

D Liberal, was that a straight copy-paste or your own typo? Because if it's the former, apparently the officers have been 'selected on the basis of their ability to undertake
enquiries discretely'. Discretely from the law one assumes.

Paul Halsall said...

Cute photo

Matthew said...

What a self-indulgent whinge.

The police were conducting a serious investigation and made a perfectly reasonable request of Mr Kawczynski's office. He complains that he should have been given time to consider the request. Did he ask for it? No, he just handed the letter over and then, when he regretted it, went into self-justifying publicity overdrive.

He's made himself look like a pathetic little moaner. Whether or not one agrees with every aspect of the way the situation was handled by the police officer, Mr Kawczynski has completely overblown the whole thing. I don't blame the Speaker for telling him where to get off. He should now shut up.

Jeremy said...

Please stop referring to your researcher as young - it sounds so patronising and unnecessary - the fact that they were young had nothing to do with complying with the police officer's request.

While I understand some of your arguments, dealing with dangerous, offensive, and malicious mail is something that all staff on the Parliamentary estate should work together on - it's everyone's responsibility. In our office, we often had the police in to follow up on dangerous and crazy people. It worries me that their ability to do this is undermined by your reaction.

Officers who work on the Parliamentary Estate are distinct from normal police.

I also wish you would stop harking on about privacy of MPs' communications from constitutents. We all know this letter must have been from a nut case, who had been threatening a minister.

Dry your eyes, Mr K, and grow up a bit.

Andy said...

Also Iain, do you think that Daniel loves your blog so much that he wanted to give you the exclusive or do you think the mainstream media sent him away with a flea in his ear when he pitched this to them?

Armchair said...

Daniel,
Parliament made a rod for its own back when it chose an idiot as Speaker. Gorbals Mick Martin, despite your sycophancy, couldn't be more inappropriate to hold an office that his predecessors have held with such esteem. The thing is that the public know it.

Once an idiot takes root it encourages other idiots to join it, Jill Pay is wholly inappropriate and completely ill-qualified to be Sergeant at Arms. Who appointed her? Uh huh!

After the next election I am likely to be Chief of Staff for two of your colleagues. I am a lawyer, but even if I weren't plod would have been told to go get a warrant. At the very least I would have made a judgement as to the seriousness of the allegation, the content of the letter and the consequences of delaying the police.

Letters to an MP should receive the same protection as a letter to a solicitor. Could a constituent write to an MP and make serious allegations against the police if they thought that the police might raid the MP's office and find out what they had alleged?

The fact that the police think that they can do what they damn well like is the most worrying bit of it all. I take it therefore that when this horrendous government finally falls our government will tighten the legislation accordingly.

No MP's offices, either parliamentary or constituency, should be raided without an order from a court and must be signed by a minimum of two Judges. Magistrates are too compliant with police requests and simply don't have the knowledge to assess how necessary the request really is.

Iain Dale said...

Well you have clearly made up your own mind on that one.

Armchair said...

I presume you mean me Iain?

There isn't really anything to make up my mind on.

Parliament is a court. It needs to be protected as such.

The police should not not be raiding MPs offices, although raiding may be stretching it on this occasion, for wholly obvious reasons.

In an ideal situation if the police wanted to read a letter from a constituent to their MP, then it should be the decision of a judge as to whether they can.

That may mean that the judge reads the letter and decides to what extent it is probative of the facts in issue, or to what extent it supports the case that the police are enquiring into.

As we all know, the police will always say they don't have enough powers. I think that they currently have far too many and they are poorly regulated. I remember when Thatcher introduced the Public Order Act. There was wholesale uproar and the lefties termed it "draconian."

When this mob brought in RIPA and subsequently allowed all and sundry to abuse it, not a dickie was said.

dalesman said...

Daniel let himself and his constituents down.
Time to get a back bone instead of just whining, Daniel.

canvas said...

I feel nothing but indifference towards Daniel Kawczynski.

boohoo whatever

Norfolk Blogger said...

I am amazed that an MP could be so compliant. One wonders why you are at Westminster at all.