Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 79)



  60. Only three weeks?
  (Mr Hood) It could be two weeks. I do not know when it came in. It could have been at any point in that week. It is still a significant period of time. I accept that.

  61. Did you intend to ask the Permanent Secretary's advice since you said you did not know what you should do?
  (Mr Hood) It is not a matter of saying I did not know what to do. The judgment I reached was that there was no action that we should take, having received it.

  62. Other than copy it to the news department?
  (Mr Hood) No. Other than to make sure that the three people the Foreign Secretary would want to discuss it with were in the same state of information as I was so that they could give the best possible advice.


  63. Mr Williams, can I ask you what use you made of that leaked draft report?
  (Mr Williams) When I took a copy from Andrew, I read it, I put it in my drawer, locked it away and took no further action. I did at some subsequent stage—and I cannot remember when—tell the head of the news department what had happened and I asked him if he wanted to see it. It did not occur to me that it was wrong of me to do that and I regret that it did not occur to me. It did not occur to me that it was wrong of me to read it and keep it and I regret that I did not realise that Parliament would regard that as wrong.

  64. You gave copies to your colleagues in the news department. What use did you expect them to make of it?
  (Mr Williams) The way we divide our roles is that Kim Darroch is the head of the news department. Chris Sainty was at the time the press officer dealing with Sierra Leone. I am the deputy head of the news department. I was for a long time a political correspondent here and I tend to specialise in controversial stories that the lobby here are taking a hostile interest in—i.e., things like Sandline. When I am doing things like that, I inform and consult Kim Darroch as necessary and the press officer involved. It was in that spirit that I showed it to them. Kim actually took a copy. Chris did not take a copy. I regret not thinking that there was anything wrong with that. I suppose I was too narrowly focused on doing what I usually do.

  65. Have you received any copies of any other draft report from the Foreign Affairs Select Committee?
  (Mr Williams) No.

Mr Williams

  66. We remember you from your lobby days. In your lobby days, if this had arrived, you would have thought it was gold dust, would you not?
  (Mr Williams) Nothing like that ever happened then.

  67. You were just unlucky but coming back to my original question you in the lobby would have had a scoop. It would have been gold dust?
  (Mr Williams) Yes.

  68. You knew how important this was.
  (Mr Williams) Yes, I knew how important it was.

  69. But you did not do anything about it?
  (Mr Williams) The sense in which I did not do anything about it—

  70. Not even telling your head of news?
  (Mr Williams) I did.

  71. At what stage, though? That was later, you said. You put it in your drawer and that was some time later.
  (Mr Williams) It was some time later, yes, but not much later; only days. One thing to remember about Kim and I is that he tends to travel with the Foreign Secretary and I stay here. For instance, I never saw Kim all last week.

  72. Knowing its importance from your journalistic experience, were you not concerned that, particularly as you had provided copies elsewhere, copies might leak out of the department?
  (Mr Williams) That was the only copy I made and it was for that reason that I only copied it to Kim. I realised the importance of it. What I did not do was to sit down with Kim and say, "What are we going to do with this? What is our strategy going to be because of this?" We had always agreed that there would be a very simple response to the select committee, that Robin Cook backed those officials who were criticised. Having sat through many hours of evidence, it was clear to me that it was going to be a critical report. When I joined the department, Robin Cook was unfairly being criticised by the lobby here for not backing his officials and we were determined that that false story should not run. In that sense, I said to Kim, "We have this leak. It confirms our expectations. If you want to look at it, here it is."

Mr Forth

  73. You therefore had this document for, you think, a few days. You then told the mysterious Kim who travels frequently with the Foreign Secretary.
  (Mr Williams) He isn't mysterious, he is the head of the news department.

  74. It is entirely possible, probable, maybe even certain that, from the time you told Kim about your possession of this document, Kim would have been travelling with the Foreign Secretary at about that time or soon after?
  (Mr Williams) He probably was because the Rambouillet process was going on.

  75. Indeed. It may be that you are unable to answer the question but the question now obviously arises as to whether Kim, in possession of this unusual information, would or would not have mentioned it to the Foreign Secretary between the time you told Kim and 1 February.
  (Mr Williams) No. Kim would regard that as my responsibility. I dealt with Sandline. He had devolved that to me. He knows that I would mention it to the Foreign Secretary as and when I thought it necessary.

  76. So the head of news is now in possession of a very rare and valuable leaked document but does not mention it to the Secretary of State.
  (Mr Williams) I would defend Kim loyally and say that it was my responsibility to deal with Sandline. That had always been the case and I had been dealing with it since before Kim arrived in the department. He knew I would mention it to the Foreign Secretary as and when I thought it necessary to do so. I regret not mentioning it to him earlier.

  77. We now have three people—the special adviser, the deputy head of news and the head of news—who all know about a very rare and unusual event, a leaked document, and for a period of, we think, at least two weeks none of these people mentions it to the Secretary of State.
  (Mr Williams) Acting as Kim's spokesman, I suppose, I would not want to downplay the importance of this but Kim was dealing with the Rambouillet peace process with the Foreign Secretary. When they travelled, they were flying to and from France to deal with that. He would be focusing very hard on that and he would regard it as my job to make the judgment about when to raise Sandline with the Foreign Secretary. That may be wrong and we may be open to criticism for that but that was why he took that judgment and if there was any fault it was mine, not Kim's.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  78. Did you know the report was coming prior to Andrew giving it to you?
  (Mr Williams) No.

Mr Foster

  79. Did you know what Andrew Hood was doing about it? Did you have any discussions about whether, to whom and when the report might be passed on?
  (Mr Williams) I do not recall doing that. I do regret that I focused far too narrowly on this simply as a matter of media strategy. That is a fault I certainly plead guilty to. Most days of most weeks something is put before me and I think: what is the media going to do with this; therefore, what do we do? That was my only thought and that was a mistake. In this case, I thought: this report is going to be published on 8 February so around about a week before then I need to raise this with the Secretary of State. In my own mind, I parked it to one side.

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