Police Searches on the Parliamentary Estate - Committee on the Issue of Privilege Contents

Examination of Witness (Question Numbers 140-159)



  Q140  Mr Howard: But on 27 November, the following day, you were told at half past seven in the morning by the Serjeant that there was definitely going to be an arrest and a search?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: Yes.

  Q141  Mr Howard: Why did you not then ask the Serjeant whether she had consulted the Clerk?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: I took it that the person in charge of security had consulted her immediate superior. I took it to be the case. That is what I expected and that is what I thought. Also if I could say about the search, I have been a constituency MP for 30 years in an area which can have some social difficulties and a councillor before that and never has anyone come to my surgery or spoke to me and said, "My house was searched and there was no warrant." When there is a search there is always a warrant. That was basic and that is what I expected to happen. At that stage I expected Speaker's Counsel to be involved and I expected the Clerk to be involved. Also the Serjeant was not saying to me, "By the way, this search is based on a consent and there has been a wee bit of a debate about it." Then I would have been able to say, "Wait a minute, what is going on here?" But all of these people—the Clerk and Speaker's Counsel—I expected that that should have been something the Serjeant should have done.

  Q142  Mr Howard: But you never asked for the Clerk's advice and you never asked whether there was indeed a warrant?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: I did not ask, no, but I expected that, and I have said in my statement that I expected that to be basic that there should have been a warrant.

  Q143  Mr Howard: With the benefit of hindsight do you wish that you had asked those questions?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: Of course with the benefit of hindsight, yes, of course.

  Q144  Mr Howard: In the afternoon when you had gone to Glasgow the Speaker's Secretary phoned you and told you that the Clerk had wanted convey to you that the search was underway and was being conducted properly.

  Lord Martin of Springburn: Yes.

  Q145  Mr Howard: Even then you did not ask to speak to the Clerk yourself?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: No, that is not true. I am sorry but the Clerk had told Speaker's Secretary Mr Angus Sinclair, "Tell the Speaker everything has been carried out properly," and then what I wanted to know at that stage is what does `properly' mean? Of course by that time, Mr Howard, your own party was kicking up blazes, with justification, and then I said, "What does `properly' mean? I want to know what that means," and I asked for the paperwork. That was the first thing that I had to do. Bear this in mind: I do not know at what point the Clerk left to go abroad, I do not know whether he was still in the country or not, but what I wanted to know was if everything was all right and I wanted sight of the paperwork. I wanted to see for myself what the paperwork was like because Patrick McLoughlin had wanted to speak to me early on—and when I say early I mean on at teatime that evening—and that was not possible because I was in the house of a brother who was chronically ill.

  Q146  Mr Howard: But if you wanted to know what the Clerk meant by being conducted properly in respect of the search, why on earth did you not ask to speak to the Clerk so you could ask him that question?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: Why did the Clerk not speak to me? Why did the Clerk not come directly to me? The Clerk has every phone number, the same amount of phone numbers that Angus Sinclair has got. Why did the Clerk not come to me? The duty of the Clerk is to serve the Speaker, not the other way round; it is not for me to run around finding the Clerk. If the Clerk went to my senior official in Speaker's House and said, "By the way I want you to pass this information on," he is indicating that he does not want to come to me. The message that he was putting across was that everything was all right, it had been done properly, and then I said before I speak to Patrick McLoughlin I wanted to know what being done properly meant. Then of course you had the difficulty that there are no faxes in my brother's home and I was not going to have someone who was ill being upset by phone calls coming to and from. I then said get me the paperwork. The first thing is the paperwork was not available at 5 o'clock when Angus spoke to me and then Peter Barratt was able to phone me. I was on the way home. I pulled into a lay-by and I said, "Right, the first thing I want to know, Peter, is: is there a magistrate's signature on this document?" and he said, "Well, there are only two signatures. There is the signature of the Serjeant at Arms and a police officer." I said that is not a warrant because I have enough experience dealing with constituents, and I was a JP for a short period of time when I was a councillor in Glasgow, to know there has got to be a magistrate's warrant. Peter explained to me that it was an A4 sheet that he had in front of him. I said, "Right, start reading from the top to the bottom what it says on this A4 sheet," and when I heard "consent to entry" or words to that effect I said that is not a warrant and I realised then that there was no warrant. The point about why did I not come to the Clerk; why did the Clerk not come to me? That is what they are there for to advise everyone in the House, especially the Speaker.

  Q147  Mr Howard: I want to ask you about one other matter relating to the Clerk. On 2 December you held a meeting with all the officials of the House to prepare your statement to the House the next day and you deal with that at paragraphs 25 to 27 of your statement. In particular you say at paragraph 27 that you were told on that occasion that the Serjeant had gone both to the Clerk Assistant and to the Clerk on a "what if" basis to ask whether she had authority to grant consent for the search and you say in the last sentence at paragraph 27: "The Serjeant had put the same questions to the Clerk of the House and the Clerk had informed her that she had that authority." That is what you were told at the meeting of 2 December?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: Correct.

  Q148  Mr Howard: This is what I do not understand. When you made your statement to the House the next day you said: "I regret that a consent form was then signed by the Serjeant at Arms without consulting the Clerk of the House."

  Lord Martin of Springburn: I think the point I was trying to make, Mr Howard, was that the Serjeant had informed me that she had gone and signed a consent form without the Clerk's approval. That is the point. In other words, it was a consent form. I do not know what was in his mind when he says that she had the authority but what he was saying to me on 2 December was that it should have been with a warrant and that was the point I was making.

  Mr Howard: But she had consulted the Clerk, had she not? That is what you tell us in paragraph 27 of your memorandum. She had consulted the Clerk—

  Mr Blunkett: Just before Lord Martin answers that question from Michael Howard, could we just clarify for my own sake when the Clerk was available and when he was not because we are addressing 2 December but obviously from the events of 20 November when was the Clerk actually available?

  Mr Howard: We are only addressing 2 December because that was when a meeting took place when the events of 27 November were being discussed. It was on 2 December that the Speaker held his meeting with the officials in order to decide what to tell the House on the 3rd.

  Chairman: Paragraph 25.

  Q149  Mr Howard: Exactly. To give an account of what had happened, so on the face of paragraph 27 the Speaker was told that the Clerk had been consulted by the Serjeant but that is not what the House of Commons was told the next day.

  Lord Martin of Springburn: But it was not. I think the point has got to be made that I do not know what was in the Clerk's mind when he said you have authority to allow anyone in, but the authority should have been with a search warrant and not a consent. The Clerk has told me in conversation that in no way was he suggesting that a search of premises should have been by a consent form.

  Q150  Mr Howard: Lord Martin, the advice that the Clerk gave the Serjeant might well have been wrong but the fact is that the Clerk did give the Serjeant advice, as you say in paragraph 27 of your statement, and what you told the House on 3 December was not correct, was it?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: What I told the House on 3 December was correct. That was not proper consultation in my eyes, for someone to walk in and give a "what if" scenario and then walk out the door again. It was not consultation in the sense that you, Mr Howard, or I would understand where you would sit down and have a full discussion and say, "Look, there is an anti-terrorism group, there is a possibility of an arrest and here are all the circumstances. Do I have the power to allow a person in?" I understand the "what if" scenario is that in certain circumstances a Serjeant can allow someone on the premises, but if you are talking about consultation let me say that it was not the consultation that you or I would understand where you say there is a given situation, there is a Member, I do not know his name but there is an anti-terrorism group involved, and there are police officers and they could want into the House of Commons." That was not full consultation in the sense that I understand it and that was why the statement I gave was given in good faith to the House.

  Q151  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Lord Martin, you have indicated what you believe to be the responsibilities of the Clerk of the House and of the Serjeant at Arms and both in your statement and in your evidence you have been critical of the way they carried out these responsibilities. When you were first informed by the Serjeant at Arms first of all on the Wednesday and then on the Thursday of the imminent arrest of a Member of Parliament, what did you consider to be your responsibility as the Speaker of the House?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: I am sorry, Sir Malcolm, could you repeat the question?

  Q152  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I am asking you when you were first informed on the Wednesday, the day before the arrest of Mr Green, and on Thursday when you were told an arrest was likely later that day—and you have told us in some detail about your view of the responsibilities of the Clerk of the House and the Serjeant at Arms—what you considered your responsibility?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: I feel my responsibility was that I was dealing with an anti-terrorism squad. I did not know all the facts and I felt that I could not interfere with an anti-terrorism squad.

  Q153  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: But what did you consider were your responsibilities as Speaker of the House?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: My responsibility as Speaker of the House was not to interfere with a police investigation. I do not think the House would have wanted me to do that. My other responsibilities were to see that the officers of the House were acting properly.

  Q154  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: But did you make any effort to find out if they were acting properly because you have told us you made no attempt to actually get the advice of the Clerk of the House or to consult what the procedures should be on such an occasion.

  Lord Martin of Springburn: I was told that this was highly confidential by the officer in charge of security and I presumed—I presumed—that she had kept the Clerk of the House informed. That has happened before, Sir Malcolm, where the Speaker is told by one officer and other officers are in the loop, if that is the right word to use, are kept informed.

  Q155  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Lord Martin, you were told it was confidential on the Wednesday but you have also told us that on the Thursday, on the day of the arrest, you were phoned by the Serjeant at Arms at 7.30 in the morning to be told an arrest was likely later that day. What was to stop you immediately calling the Clerk of the House, the Serjeant at Arms, the Counsel to the Speaker and the other relevant officials in order—

  Lord Martin of Springburn: It was the Serjeant at Arms who was talking to me so I would not have phoned the Serjeant at Arms.

  Q156  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I appreciate that but nevertheless the arrest of a Member of Parliament and the possible search of an office in the House was one of the most serious things that could happen. You had the ultimate responsibility for what happened in the House of Commons. I cannot understand why even at that time, when it was no longer a question of confidence because it was happening that day, you did not actually ask your advisers to tell you what is the proper procedure if a Member of Parliament is being arrested and if there is a possibility that his office is going to be searched because you have told us you had no knowledge yourself of these matters. Did you not think it appropriate to find out immediately what the proper procedure was, what the safeguards should be at that time?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: My understanding—and perhaps with hindsight that is what I should have done—was that the Serjeant had kept everyone who should have been informed.

  Q157  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: But forgive me, Lord Martin, it is not just a question of whether people were informed; it is what are the rules that should be observed by the police and by the Serjeant at Arms if a Member is about to be arrested and his office is about to be searched? If you had done that would you not have been told that the proper procedure would be that a search warrant should be obtained? Did you not in fact make any effort to establish that?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: Every time that I have dealt with a constituent and there has been a search there has been a search warrant. As far as I am concerned, that was basic; if there was search there was a search warrant.

  Q158  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Would it not have been wise to just check what the proper procedure was?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: It would have been wise for the Serjeant to check.

  Q159  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: If it was wise for the Serjeant would it not have been wise for you as well?

  Lord Martin of Springburn: This is one of the three officers that advise me on a daily basis. I expected that she had lined up the other senior officers with this matter.

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