Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
TUESDAY 15 JUNE 1999
GRANT CMG, MR
20. Did you issue any warnings to people that
they had to be careful that this was kept close to the chest?
(Mr Hood) Yes, certainly, when John and I met we discussed
the sensitivity of it, yes.
21. But was there any agreement that circulation
was to be strictly limited?
(Mr Hood) There certainly was an understanding, that
John and I understood at the time and discussed the need to make
sure that this was not distributed any further or certainly not
22. There is a difference between the two. Which
one was itnot any further or widely?
(Mr Hood) If you ask me to recall, I cannot remember
exactly which of those it was, but certainly I was happy that
John understood that this was a document that was extremely sensitive
and was a document where we needed to be extremely careful to
ensure that it did not proliferate throughout the office, as you
23. Do you see the Secretary of State every
(Mr Hood) No, not always, no.
24. How frequently would you say you saw the
Secretary of State?
(Mr Hood) It depends actually on how busy it is. Most
of my work in the office is longer term in that he has good enough
short-term political antennae and when he is dealing with particular
issues that are in front of him he is quite capable of handling
those without me standing behind him whispering in his ear. Most
of what I do is looking at the longer-term strategy on issues,
trying to make sure that the development of policy is in a direction
that is coherent with the development of policy in other government
departments and coordinated with all the other special advisers
and making sure it is consistent with manifesto commitments, that
we are delivering on those. It is essentially the political work
that the Foreign Secretary himself is not able to deal with because
he is dealing with the day-to-day issues. So it is actually not
unusual for me to go one or two weeks without speaking to him.
25. One or two weeks? You have told us that,
in fact, it was something more like three weeks, 21 days, between
the likely time that this document was in your possession in the
first place and the time at which apparently the Secretary of
State was first aware of it?
(Mr Hood) It was certainly a considerable period of
time. It was the first opportunity I had to bring it to his attention
on 1 February.
26. The first opportunity?
(Mr Hood) Yes.
27. So would you not have seen him at all during
that three weeks?
(Mr Hood) I did try to bring it to his attention at
an earlier time but I had to make, as I have said, a judgment
about how urgently it needed to be brought to his attention given
the other issues he was dealing with, and I reached that judgment
and I have already said that, in hindsight, I regret that I did
not reach a view on the handling of this document and the need
for action that would have better fitted the view of the House,
because one thing I had been keen to do was to make sure that
we did not breach guidance or rules. What I would not have wanted
to do was to cut across the view of the House about how documents
of this kind ought to be handled and I do regret the fact that
it seems that that is what we have done.
Mr Forth: I am sure, Chairman, we will
come on later to other people who have knowledge of it and perhaps
their frequency of contact with the Secretary of State, but for
the moment I will leave it there.
28. What fax machine did it come in on? Was
it a sort of general fax, your fax or
(Mr Hood) I actually do not know, I am afraid.
29. Why were you the chosen one to have it in
(Mr Hood) It was not in my pile, it was in a pile
of documents that were waiting to be sorted to see if they needed
to be shown to the Secretary of State.
30. But presumably someone decided? When you
say "a pile", there must be lots of piles in the Foreign
Office? It was a pile that you were dealing with, so someone must
(Mr Hood) No, I was actually looking through it for
31. No, what I am asking about is, how did this
particular pile arise? You do not go through all the piles in
the Foreign Office, so whose pile was this? Was it the Foreign
Secretary's pile that you look at or somebody else's pile or you
have your own personal pile or what?
(Mr Hood) I have my own personal in-tray and it was
not in my in-tray. It was in a collection of documents that are
in the Private Office waiting to be sorted to see if they need
to be brought to the Secretary of State's attention. It does not
in that sense belong to anyone other than the Private Office.
It is a collection of documents that has been submitted to Private
Office. It is not a collection of documents that come into my
office and I am afraid I cannot say other than that.
32. So it came into the Private Office fax,
did it, on the Private Office fax?
(Mr Hood) I do not actually know which fax it came
33. Someone had made a judgment that it should
be you who had first access to it?
(Mr Hood) No, actually they did not at all. It was
pure circumstance that I was looking through that particular pile
of papers at that particular moment on that particular day. On
other days I would not have looked through that pile at all. It
is certainly not a pile that It is normal for me to look
for documents through collections ofthrough any tray in
the office if I am looking for something in particular, in the
same way that if you are trying to track down something you look
through any heap, I think, for the thing you are searching for,
but it certainly was notit is not a routine matter for
me to go to that particular collection of documents. If someone
had wanted to get something to me they would have done it in a
way that came into my in-tray. This was purely circumstantial.
34. Did it have a front sheet suggesting who
it might be directed to?
(Mr Hood) No, it did not.
35. You used the words, "Oh my God, we've
got a leak." This was an extreme sort of response.
(Mr Hood) It was something along those lines, yes.
36. You had never had a leak before?
(Mr Hood) I was not aware of any other leaks that
had come into the Foreign Office.
37. So it is a unique situation that you are
faced with, the first time ever in your whole career that a document
of this magnitude, a leak from a Select Committee, has come to
(Mr Hood) It was certainly the first time that a leak
from a Select Committee had come to my attention. I was aware,
I am aware, of cases where leaks have been sent to government
departments and Westminster folklore is full of stories of leaks
that have been sent out, and that is not to understate the significance
of receiving a leak in the office. I did not understate that significance
but, as I say, I reached a judgment at the time that the primary
responsibility lay with the leaker and not with us for having
38. You have told us that it was a very busy
(Mr Hood) Yes, it was.
39.and the Foreign Secretary was extremely
busy, that you sometimes do not see him for one week and perhaps
longer. This was a three-week period. Can you tell us how often
you saw him during that three-week period?
(Mr Hood) I cannot actually. I cannot remember how