Jacqui Smith - Standards and Privileges Committee Contents


You asked me for my views on the principle of using police records, collected in the course of your personal protection, to verify the number of nights you have spent in London and in Redditch.

I have discussed this with [the Head of Propriety and Ethics] in the Cabinet Office. Her advice is attached.

I very much agree with that advice. It would be an unusual and, as far as we know, an unprecedented step for police records to be used in this way. We would greatly prefer it, if all other avenues for resolving this matter could be used before asking the police to release their records.

The Home Office is, as you know, responsible for the policy on personal protection within Government. […] We do not normally even confirm or deny whether individuals receive protection and certainly never reveal any details about the nature of that protection.

The police, of course, are responsible for the provision and operation of protection. They decide on its details, in consultation with the individual concerned and the Home Office and also place a high priority on confidentiality and privacy. It is entirely a matter for them what records they keep. I do not know how full these records are or what police resource might be involved in collating usable information.

It would therefore be a highly unusual step to reveal any information relating to personal protection, even to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. Personal protection is provided for just that—the protection of the individual. It is not designed to provide a record of an individual's movements and private arrangements. Many senior politicians accept protection as a necessary consequence of the job they do, but dislike the intrusion into their and their families' privacy which it necessarily involves. If, in the future, they thought that it might be used to provide personal information to a third party, I fear they may look at protection in a completely different way.

For all these reasons I, like [the Director of Propriety and Ethics] would much prefer it, if police records were only used as a last resort. Following discussions with her, I have, however, agreed with you that, in line with your wish to be as helpful as possible to the Standards Commissioner, he can have access to your Home Office diary. These are official diaries prepared by civil servants and, although they would no doubt require some interpretation and commentary, they are, unlike police records, an official account of your movements. I should have thought that they will provide the basis for verifying your stays in London, Redditch and elsewhere. But as [the Director] points out, this release is in itself a rare occurrence for Ministers with a high level of personal protection, and I would want to stress that we would never normally make the diaries accessible to anyone.

25 March 2009

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