Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
TUESDAY 15 JUNE 1999
GRANT CMG, MR
40. But are you saying, you are telling us that
this leaked document that had brought about the exclamation you
made was somehow at the back of your mind and that it did not
occur to you every time you saw the Foreign Secretary from then
until when you disclosed it?
(Mr Hood) I did not see him on many occasions during
that period when I had a chance to raise it with him, but it certainly
was not at the back of my mind. It was not that I did not want
to try and raise it. As I say, I had to reach a judgment about
how pressing it was to raise it with him, having myself reached
a judgment, which with hindsight I regret, that actually there
was no action that needed to be taken on this.
41. Having exclaimed out loud when you first
saw this document, which no doubt you often do in the course of
your daily duties, this suggests that some kind of alarm bells
were ringing in your mind? Would you say there were alarm bells?
(Mr Hood) Yes.
42. Would you not then say, "I shouldn't
have this. I must send it back"? What was the logical course
(Mr Hood) The alarm bells were saying this should
not have been sent to us. I understood the sensitivity of it and
I understood the need to make sure we did not do anything inappropriate
with it from that point onwards.
43. Mr Hood, I am sure you are aware of the
arrangements and conditions under which we give evidence to Select
(Mr Hood) Yes.
44. You have probably watched lots of them in
(Mr Hood) Yes.
45. Did you ever have a discussion at all at
any stage with Ernie Ross about receiving that document?
(Mr Hood) No.
46. Not at any stage? Not even discussed it
(Mr Hood) About anything to do with the Foreign Affairs
Committee? I do not believe I ever once discussed any issues to
do with the Foreign Affairs Committee with Ernie, nor did I, particularly,
discuss with Ernie anything to do with this particular report,
but I have known Ernie for a long period of time, partly because
one of the issues I deal with, both for the Party and now in government,
is the Middle East and Ernie is Chair of the Labour Middle East
Committee and there have been a number of occasions where, when
we have had resolutions at conference, I have been negotiating
47. I understand that. So in other words, it
was not solicited and you had no notice of the fact that it was
going to be received?
(Mr Hood) Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
48. If you received a fax tomorrow, what would
you do with it?
(Mr Hood) If there were another leaked document that
came into the office
49. If you received a fax like that tomorrow,
what would you do with it?
(Mr Hood) I would advise that it should be sent straight
50. Advise whom?
(Mr Hood) I would advise whoever it is I think
I would need to check who is the appropriate person I should advise
but I think I would advise the Permanent Secretary and the Foreign
51. But you would insist it go back?
(Mr Hood) I would say that it needed to go back but
I would expect that that would also be the view of the Foreign
Secretary and the Permanent Secretary.
52. Are all the other special advisers in all
the other departments aware of the difficulties that you find
(Mr Hood) I have no idea. I have not discussed it
53. Do you think that their views would be the
same as yours in the light of what has happened?
(Mr Hood) I actually do not know. You would have to
ask them, but I would certainly advise them to look very closely
at the lessons to be learned from the episode we have just been
54. At this stage you do not think that they
may have formed a view about this?
(Mr Hood) I hope they have.
55. You say that you found the fax in a pile
of documents which were to be sorted into those to be brought
to the Foreign Secretary's attention or otherwise. Was that a
pile consisting of everything that comes into the Private Office
or had somebody previously decided that it deserved to go in that
(Mr Hood) I do not know. I suspect that some of those
things had already been sorted and some of them had just been
put there. I must be the first person in the office who was aware
of the significance of the document. Whether someone else had
handled it before that I genuinely do not know.
56. Someone clearly had.
(Mr Hood) Someone clearly had but it is not unusual.
There are a vast number of documents, some of them extremely confidential,
that go to the office all the time. The clerical staff handle
those documents in a way where they have no interest whatsoever
in the content. It is quite possible that it had been handled
by other people without them being fully aware of its significance.
Certainly I was the first person who owned up to understanding
the significance of the document.
57. When the Foreign Secretary became aware
of the existence of the document, was that in a face to face meeting
with you or?
(Mr Hood) Yes. It was in a meeting with John Williams
and myself on 1 February.
58. What was the Foreign Secretary's response,
particularly when he knew the document had been in the office
for three weeks?
(Mr Hood) His response was to understand exactly what
we understood, that this was a serious matter but that we needed
to make sure that no action happened on the basis of it.
59. Three weeks. It almost beggars belief that
in three weeks you could not find two minutes or one minute to
tell the Foreign Secretary this, but you say you realised the
seriousness and sensitivity of it. As the time began to drag on,
did you not think, "Perhaps I had better get the advice of
the Permanent Secretary since he is more experienced in dealing
with these matters than I would be"?
(Mr Hood) I am sorry to nit-pick, but it is only three
weeks if it actually came in on the first day of that second week