Jacqui Smith - Standards and Privileges Committee Contents


You and I have discussed the issue of access to police protection records in relation to the complaint received by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards relating to the Home Secretary. […] also phoned me about the issue.

Throughout our discussion, we have been clear that the investigation is a matter for Parliament and we would not wish to do anything which could be seen to be obstructing the inquiry. We have also been acutely aware of the Home Secretary's wish to be as helpful as possible to the Parliamentary Commissioner as he conducts his investigation. However, it is also the case that there is a read across to the Home Secretary's ministerial responsibilities as both the official diary and provision of protection relate to her ministerial role. Therefore, both the Cabinet Office and Home Office have an interest.

In terms of Ministers' diaries, I can think of only one occasion where we have provided access to an external body to a Minister's diary and that was to the Information Commissioner […] It was agreed to allow access rather than provide a copy on grounds of privacy and security. This request raises similar issues as [ … ] the Home Secretary […] in receipt of protection and as a result […] diaries will contain some very personal information. However, I can appreciate in this case how a ministerial diary may provide an evidence base to establish the Home Secretary's movements, and therefore agree it should be provided to the Commissioner for the purposes of his investigation.

However, I am not aware of any instances where protection logs have been provided. This is not information which departments have access to and of course they are not assembled for the purposes of providing an official record (unlike ministerial diaries). You would be better placed than me to comment on the impact of providing access on overall policy on personal protection, but I would have thought it raised difficult issues. Therefore, my preference would be to rely on the ministerial diary in the first instance and to fall back on the protection logs if at the end of the process, the Commissioner feels further clarification is needed.

25 March 2009

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