Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
TUESDAY 15 JUNE 1999
GRANT CMG, MR
80. Specifically, did you know that Andrew Hood
had made the decision not to inform the Secretary of State at
that early stage?
(Mr Williams) No.
81. Did he know that you had decided a few days
later to pass a copy to Kim?
(Mr Williams) I do not think so.
82. Did you tell him?
(Mr Williams) I do not recall telling him.
83. Mr Grant, why did you not inform the Foreign
Secretary immediately when the leaked draft report arrived at
(Mr Grant) I think I made two assumptions which governed
the way I handled the document. The first assumption was that,
subject to the need to respect the confidence of whoever had sent
it, which was an important consideration in my mind and extended
thus to the overall need to handle the document with care and
to make sure that it was handled carefully in the office, it was
reasonable for us to retain the document and for me to use my
discretion about when to consult the Foreign Secretary. Naturally,
any private secretary frequently uses discretion about when to
consult his minister about a particular document. I move on to
my second assumption which was that operationally there was no
need to seek the Foreign Secretary's instructions on the document
because there was not a need for a decision by him or action by
him. I do think that if the first assumption had been correct
the second assumption would have been correct. I recognise now
that the first assumption was not correct and that the status
of the document meant that I did not have discretion to act as
a private secretary looking at a document, saying, "When
does my minister need to see this?" I regret that very much.
If I could anticipate a question that one of the other Members
of the Committee asked one of my colleagues, I am not doing the
job any longer but there would be no question of any private secretary
in the Foreign Office acting in that way now because the issue
and the status of these documents is already clear as a result
84. Did you think it right for the draft report,
which after all was confidential to Members of the select committee,
to be seen by officials in the news department without the approval
of the Foreign Secretary?
(Mr Grant) I did not think it was wrong because otherwise
I would have taken steps, since I was aware of it. I am not sure
at what stage, but I was certainly aware of it. The assumption
that I made was the assumption that I first described, applied
to that point as well. I did not assume that, because a member
or more than one member of the news department had seen it, some
public use would be made of it. I was very aware of that from
one vantage point, that I now see very clearly is not the vantage
point of the House or this Committee, namely that the important
thing was to ensure that this document was handled carefully and
it should not become known outside the office that we had it.
85. The other question I want to put to you
concerns the draft report on the European Union enlargement. Was
that leaked document received in your office?
(Mr Grant) Yes.
86. Did you tell the Foreign Secretary about
(Mr Grant) No, at no stage until we were asked a parliamentary
question about select committee documents.
87. Why did you not tell him?
(Mr Grant) For the same reason as in the case of the
other report. I made the same assumption, the first assumption
I described, and the question I then asked myself was: is there
anything in the substance of this reportI draw this distinction
again between the substance and the status of the documentto
which we need to alert the Foreign Secretary? Not surprisingly,
given the fact that enlargement is an issue on which there is
broad consensus, in the country and a broad measure of agreement
between the Committee and the Foreign Office and indeed government
as a whole, there was not. But that would not happen again either.
88. During the period, this famous two to three
weeks, did you and Andrew Hood discuss what was happening over
(Mr Grant) In other words?
89. Did you have discussions about it?
(Mr Grant) I simply do not recall.
90. Did you perhaps sit down and think: maybe
we should not be handling material like this; what should we do
(Mr Grant) The assumption I made was the assumption
I tried to describe, which was somebody has chosen to send this
document to the Foreign Secretary's office. Although it is right
for me to exercise great care in the handling of the document,
it was not of itself wrong for me to retain it.
91. You did not have any sort of pang of conscience
about what you should do or how you should proceed while you had
it in your possession prior to the Secretary of State seeing it?
(Mr Grant) I would have said to myself, "This
is a document which needs careful handling."
92. Andrew, what did you feel during that period?
Were you concerned about the fact that it was in your possession?
Were you worried about the implications of it?
(Mr Hood) I took the view that the one thing we could
not do was use this in any way, but it was a considered view.
I take this opportunity to clear up one point that Mr Williams
made earlier that I did not get a chance to address properly,
which was that it was a breach of privilege to copy it.
93. You were aware of that?
(Mr Hood) No. I tried at the time to reach a proper
considered view on what we should do with it. To the best of my
abilities at the time, I concluded that we were not in breach
of guidance or the rules to have received it but we would be if
we acted upon it. As a result, the decision I made was that we
must not in any circumstances act upon it.
94. In other words, you were obviously concerned
about having the information and this was all prior to the Secretary
of State finding out on 1 February?
(Mr Hood) Yes.
95. You then met Ernie Ross on the?
(Mr Hood) Thursday before publication.
96. 4 February?
(Mr Hood) I think it was, yes.
97. Can I read to you what Ernie says about
what happened at the meeting? "I had arranged to meet Andrew
Hood, Political Advisor to the Foreign Secretary, on Thursday
4th February to discuss The Westminster Foundation for Democracy,
Kosovo and the Middle East Peace Process. At the conclusion of
our discussions I asked him to inform the Foreign Secretary that
the Select Committee had agreed the Sierra Leone Report in its
final form and would be Reporting that to the House as of Tuesday
2nd February." He has the date wrong. "A press conference
was to be held on Tuesday 9th February." He may have the
date correct, but the point is that, when that conversation took
place, did you say to him, "I am sorry. I cannot get involved
in all of this"? You just now told us that you were concerned
about this document; you were uneasy about handling the material
in it. Did you say, "I am sorry but you are placing me in
a difficult position"?
(Mr Hood) At the end of the conversation, as we were
leaving the meeting, he passed that information to me and my immediate
reaction was I did not want to engage in conversation with him
about it and I did not engage in conversation with him about it.
98. Did you say, "You should not have sent
me that document, Ernie"?
(Mr Hood) No, I did not say anything else to him at
all. I did not want to talk to him about having received it. I
did not want to talk to him about anything. My decision at the
time was that the last thing I wanted to do was to start discussing
things with Ernie of that nature. That to me is clearly dangerous.
99. You have already told us that you were concerned
about having the information. You had the documents for getting
on for three weeks. I would have thought you would have protested
and said, "Why are you compromising me into this position?"
(Mr Hood) He passed the information to me. Once he
had done that, I could have protested but it struck me that the
best thing to do was not to say anything and leave.