I refer to your Statement to the House in response to my complaint that the Police had entered my office without consulting me and threatened to seize from a young member of my staff and a student intern confidential constituency correspondence. I do feel that it is imperative that I clarify the facts with you regarding what actually happened on Wednesday night.
You mentioned in your Statement that the Police Officer arrived by appointment to see a member of my staff. This is simply not the case; there was no appointment, and the Police Officer in question 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 when the police arrived – less than five minutes after their original call – they were doing so by appointment. The police informed my young researcher who has very limited experience of working in the Commons 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 to come to the office in order for me to be present when the police came. Your previous ruling that the police had to consult with the Serjeant at Arms before entering an MP’s office seems to me to imply that it is imperative for an MP to be present in his office before the police arrive and start to interact with junior staff.
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, relatively inexperienced, 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. He should not have had to come to me; the police should have come to me first.
As a fellow Member of Parliament, you will appreciate well how closely I guard the confidence of my constituents. I deal on a daily basis with highly confidential personal documents. 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 and I maintain that I treated this matter with the level of seriousness its implications demanded.
I am disappointed that in your Statement to the House you said that I had rushed to a conclusion before making my Point of Order. I understand well that the police were doing their job, and that 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. Had the same happened to your office, I think that you too would have been just as concerned as I was.
I met yesterday with 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 that was taken on Wednesday, and about its implications for the work undertaken by all Members of this House.
Mr Speaker, despite the negative media attention that I have received since raising this issue in the House, I still feel justified in doing so and would take the same course of action again were I to be presented with the same set of circumstances. I feel that the action taken by the police was serious, it needed to be raised, and had I not raised it, I would have been doing my constituents a profound disservice. I thank you for introducing new rules and regulations about the way Members and the police interact with one another as a result of all this and I know that I do not stand alone in my gratitude for clarifying some of the important grey areas remaining after the Damian Green incident.
My understanding from your previous ruling on Damian Green was that the police could not enter an MP’s office without first consulting the Serjeant at Arms. As they did not do this before entering my office and as the Police Officer put my young interns under huge pressure to hand over confidential documents without first consulting me, I felt that the Police Officer had broken the rules which you yourself have made. I therefore had no option but to raise the issue as a Point of Order. I am therefore very disappointed and concerned that you have labelled my actions as being hasty. I hope to raise these concerns with you directly and would be grateful for a meeting at your earliest convenience.
When I finally arrived in my office to meet with the Police Officer she had already got sight of the document she wanted. The division bell had rung whilst I was discussing the case with her and so obviously I had to make a decision much sooner than I would have liked as to whether or not it was appropriate to hand over the letter she wanted. I was on a 3 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 to hand over whatever material she needed.
Finally I am deeply concerned that in the morning immediately after the incident members of my staff and I contacted your office to request a meeting. We were unable to secure one. Obviously such a meeting would have given me the opportunity to clearly set out to you, personally and directly, why I felt compelled to raise this Point of Order. You have made a Statement about my actions without allowing me to put my side of the case to you and this greatly disappoints me.
It's not just me who thinks something has gone wrong here. Michael Crick thinks he misjudged events in his Newsnight report on Wednesday night. He cites the evidence of Kawczynski's two young staffers as deeply worrying. I have seen their statements and they do indeed raise questions. Over to Michael Crick...
The statements by the two staff members are worrying. If the two accounts are right, it seems astonishing following the Green affair that a policewoman should have used such methods to try and persuade two very young and inexperienced members of the MP's staff to hand over the letter, without a warrant and without first consulting the MP himself. The fact it was a police officer based at the Commons, rather than an ordinary member of the Met Police (as in the Green affair), makes it worse, as one would expect Westminster police officers to be aware of the Parliamentary privilege which applies to MPs' correspondence.
You can read the statements of Jack Colson and Helen Roberts on Michael Crick's blog. This is not a scandal on the scale of the one involving Damian Green, but there are clearly questions to be answered, not just by the Police but by The Speaker.