Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 59)



  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.

Mr Bell

  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 of your—
  (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.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  43. Mr Hood, I am sure you are aware of the arrangements and conditions under which we give evidence to Select Committee hearings?
  (Mr Hood) Yes.

  44. You have probably watched lots of them in your time?
  (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 with him?
  (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 with Ernie—

  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 back.

  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 Secretary.

  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 yourself in?
  (Mr Hood) I have no idea. I have not discussed it with them.

  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 through.

  54. At this stage you do not think that they may have formed a view about this?
  (Mr Hood) I hope they have.

Mr Levitt

  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 pile?
  (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.

Mr Williams

  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 in January.

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