Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 15 JUNE 1999
GRANT CMG, MR
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 stageand I cannot remember
whentell 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 ini.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.
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
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."
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
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 peoplethe special
adviser, the deputy head of news and the head of newswho
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.
78. Did you know the report was coming prior
to Andrew giving it to you?
(Mr Williams) No.
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.