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In the end, The Sunday Telegraph decided not to run Mr. Leapman’s story, which simply tried to catch me out for having used a nom de plume for one year too long, rather than the new procedure of anonymous
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registration that had succeeded it. But Scriven was undaunted. After trying to smear me in The Sunday Telegraph, he immediately wrote to the chief constable of Hampshire, demanding that I be criminally investigated for having registered in that way.

Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): That’s Liberal Democrats for you.

Dr. Lewis: I agree.

That despicable manoeuvre was carried out in full knowledge of the fact that my use of the nom de plume had been explicitly approved by the electoral registration officer. In any case, I had always accurately stated my real name on the voter registration form when signing it, while clearly indicating that the different name on the register was an agreed nom de plume.

Terry Scriven did not even have the decency to inform me of what he had done, but at once telephoned a local reporter in order to use the press to twist the knife that he had aimed at my back. Fortunately it missed its target, as the following report in the Lymington Times, dated 16 August 2008, makes clear. The headline is “Chief Constable Scorns Call for MP Investigation” and the story reads as follows:

[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I am glad that colleagues agree. Mr. Kernaghan continued:

After that outrageous episode, I realised that I was dealing with an extremely unscrupulous individual. Some of the publicity surrounding Terry Scriven resulted in my being contacted by people who had previously suffered at his hands. Three were from the military police, but I cannot report what they said in language permissible in this Chamber. It boiled down to the fact that Terry Scriven’s conduct had shown him to be a devious and two-faced bully who operates in the dark and never owns up to what he has done. My experience has confirmed that assessment in every respect.He blatantly refuses to answer any questions put to him about his own conduct, his sole response being to accuse me of trying to “intimidate” him by posing such questions.

That is irony indeed, coming from a man who has to date put in no fewer than 16 freedom of information requests to the House of Commons, 12 of which directly relate to me and my staff. He has refused to say, inter alia, why he used the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to request—unsuccessfully—the address of my flat in London, given his repeated statements of support for my campaign against the disclosure of MPs’ home
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addresses. He has also refused to say why, when he tried to have me investigated by the police, he told the Lymington Times reporter that he had done so but did not tell me, or why he complained, also unsuccessfully, to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards about my parliamentary caseworker, but did not tell her about this. He would not say why, when he complained to Sir Neil Thorne about the frequency of my participation in the armed forces parliamentary scheme—the AFPS—this was yet again done behind my back.

Sir Neil is admired in all parts of the House for setting up and running the AFPS. On 16 March this year, he wrote to tell me how much disruption Scriven’s vendetta was causing. Sir Neil states:

that is me, Julian Lewis—

The only advice I could give Sir Neil was that this manic and disruptive activity was part of a consistent pattern of behaviour that I have pieced together with the help of those who have encountered Terry Scriven in the past.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): He’s a nutter.

Dr. Lewis: Well, it’s not just that he’s a nutter.

In May 1999, Scriven was elected unopposed as one of half a dozen members of the parish council at Hyde in New Forest, West, the constituency in which he lives. Although he was elected for a four-year term, he lasted just six months as a parish councillor. During that time, he attended only four of the first nine meetings and resigned at the 10th—which was his fifth—after constant disagreements with his colleagues.The same happened when he was “elected”, again unopposed, to Ringwood town council in 2006 and put on the planning committee. He attended his first council meeting on 26 July, but resigned from the planning committee on 25 October, only three months later, after a blazing row with the other members. In April 2007, the mayor of Ringwood announced, with some relief, that Scriven would be stepping down from the council completely.

Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): They will give him a peerage.

Dr. Lewis: No, I do not think they will give him a peerage. His career as a town councillor in his local area in New Forest, West had lasted less than nine months from beginning to end. This fiasco followed hard on the heels of an even shorter dalliance as a trustee of an educational charity—the Vocational Training Charitable Trust—to whose board he had been formally elected at
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an annual general meeting on 4 October 2005. Such was his disruptive behaviour that, after attending only two meetings, he was twice asked to resign by the other trustees. He did so on 6 December, only two months later. [Hon. Members: “More! More!”] I must ask colleagues to restrain themselves, as I need to get through my speech in the time allowed.

All this shows a consistent pattern of deviousness and disruption. Normally, one would simply write Scriven off as a malevolent failure and put one’s faith in the good sense of the voters when the election is called. However, this brings me back to where I began, for Terry Scriven has finally had a success. He has managed to get the News of the World to publish a story falsely accusing me of hardly ever “visiting”, as it puts it, the home in my constituency where I have lived continuously for the past 11 years when I am not at Westminster. My genuine neighbours state, correctly, that I am constantly using my home, yet unnamed people, described as “neighbours” and “locals”, supposedly told the newspaper that I am “HARDLY THERE”—the quote is all in capitals—enabling it to denounce me for claiming my parliamentary allowance on my London flat, which I am perfectly entitled to do. The newspaper’s story contained one factual item: the date on which I changed my main home designation from my flat in London to my house in my constituency. That had never been published before, but it had been disclosed by the House of Commons to Terry Scriven and to nobody else on 11 July 2008, at the same time as his freedom of information request for my home address in London was rightly rejected.

As Mr. Scriven never responds to any questions that I put to him, other than to accuse me of trying to “intimidate” him by asking them, I had my solicitor write to him on 12 March pointing out that it appeared that

News of the World

The letter gave him

It concluded as follows:

I am doing that tonight—

Mr. Scriven replied on 20 March stating that he had

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What Scriven did not do in this letter was to deny for one moment that he had indeed been the initiator of the News of the World smear. As my solicitor has now informed him, the only reason that a “pile of other letters” exists has been his own behaviour towards me and my staff, and his constant evasion of all questions put to him about it.

I have little doubt that at some point during the next general election campaign Mr. Scriven will seek to distribute, perhaps unattributably, and perhaps with its date removed in order to make it look current, large numbers of copies of the News of the World smear story against me—that is, assuming that decent Liberal Democrats who, unlike Terry Scriven, actually live in the New Forest, East constituency, have not finally realised that they made a disastrous mistake in selecting as their candidate someone whose behaviour makes him unfit for any elected position in public life.

My only defence against the covert tactics of this man is to bring them out into the open in the hope of inoculating the community against their intended effects. I have given him numerous opportunities to explain and justify his conduct, and his only response has been to claim to feel intimidated by me—that is the classic refrain of the bully when an intended victim actually stands up to him. What can we expect next? Will it be a press smear against Sir Neil Thorne or the armed forces parliamentary scheme, or just another smear against me, as a shadow Defence Minister, for daring to spend so much time with the military? Can we expect a demand for the abolition of parliamentary privilege, so that hon. Members cannot rebut scurrilous critics such as Mr. Scriven? Actually—I am not making this up—he has tried that one already. Perhaps we can expect a police raid on my home, because Terry Scriven feels “intimidated” by my asking him to confirm or deny his role in the News of the World smear.

I began by discussing Scriven’s preposterous letter to my party leader, which, typically, was labelled “In Confidence”, so that I should not see his latest attempt to disparage me. It revealed that Terry Scriven expects the director general of MI5 and the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service to tell him if I have ever been involved with either organisation. Perhaps he does not realise that, just as people who work with or for such bodies have a lifelong obligation of confidentiality towards them, the reverse is also true. I can only apologise to them, to the chief constable of Hampshire, to Sir Neil Thorne, and to everyone else whose valuable time is being wasted by intrusive and inappropriate correspondence from this person, who likes to describe himself as the “prospective Member of Parliament” for my constituency. [Hon. Members: “Never!”] I am glad that my hon. Friends say, “Never.” This is a calculated effort to blacken my reputation in the eyes of my constituents. Thanks to the internet I have been able to respond quickly to the smears of the News of the World and to post the full documentation about Terry Scriven’s antics in a special section of my website so people can read them and make up their own minds. Despite the co-operation of a certain sort of journalist, I do not think that Mr. Scriven will succeed in the end, but as he has to some extent poisoned the politics of New Forest, East, I thank the House for this opportunity to expose his behaviour and to set it on the record—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]

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11.30 pm

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Chris Bryant): This is far too much excitement for an Adjournment debate. There is obviously also too much excitement in politics in the constituency of the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), although he rather lost me when he was going on about the mayor of Ringwood, which sounds like a veterinary equine condition.

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, who is not only one of the most fastidious Members, but one of the most respectful, and indeed the most fastidiously respectful of hon. Members. I have never found him intimidating, not even when he has been trying to be intimidating, so I am delighted that he has managed to see off the gentleman in his constituency. I am also fascinated by the idea of having a nom de plume. It sounds like having a nom de guerre, and again is far too exciting. I have also never known anyone be quite so public about being private about their address.

I can be dispassionate on this issue as mine is the only constituency in the country in which both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have lost their deposits on the same occasion. I, too, increased my majority at the last election, and I am sure that that had nothing to do with anything on the internet— [ Laughter. ] It pays to advertise.

We can agree on many issues in this debate. First, the armed forces parliamentary scheme should not be taken lightly. It has provided an invaluable service for many hon. Members, including me, who would otherwise know very little of the armed forces, and we should thank Sir Neil Thorne. Secondly, the security of all hon. Members and their families and staff—we should not forget them—is a very serious matter. There have been very serious incidents in the past that the Liberal Democrats and other parties have had to face. That is a matter for the whole House.

In my own case, I had a stalker turn up outside my front door in London who had to be removed by the police. He rang me up and asked, “Is that Chris Bryant?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “I’m Malcolm, I’m outside.” I told him to go away. He said, “I’m very submissive.” I used an expletive and he said, “I’m not that submissive.” The police took him away. On a second occasion, someone was sent to prison for harassment, not because they were particularly aggressive towards me, but because they were making it impossible for me to do my job at my surgery.

All hon. Members will be aware of cases in their constituencies where they have had to deal with people who have mental health problems or who are fixated on them. It is incumbent on the whole political community to work together to ensure that such situations do not infect the body politic.

The House took a clear decision, on a free vote, to change the law in relation to candidates and whether they had to put their full address on the ballot. It is permissive, and if people want to put their address on they can do so. There were 235 votes in favour of changing the law and only 176 against. We also introduced a statutory instrument under the freedom of information legislation to ensure that Members’ residential addresses could be kept secure for the obvious reasons that the hon. Gentleman has elucidated.

I think we can all agree that police time should not be wasted on nonsense such as this. We can also agree that
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a free press is absolutely vital, but with a free press must surely come the duty to be accurate, to tell the whole story and to give the opportunity for a right of reply.

Finally, and most importantly of all, politics is an honourable profession and it should be entered into
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honestly and with magnanimity. When we show magnanimity across the House, we earn the respect of all voters.

Question put and agreed to.

11.34 pm

House adjourned.

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