Examination of Witness (Question Numbers
2 NOVEMBER 2009
Q160 Sir Malcolm Rifkind: You have
informed us, Lord Martin, that after that telephone conversation
at 7.30 on the morning Mr Green was arrested that you left for
your constituency in Glasgow.
Lord Martin of Springburn: That
Q161 Sir Malcolm Rifkind: You have
chosen in paragraph 17 of your memorandum to say that you were
disappointed that the Clerk of the House had gone to a conference
in Ireland despite the serious situation in the House.
Lord Martin of Springburn: No,
I did not say the Clerk of the House.
Q162 Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Speaker's
Counsel, I am sorry.
Lord Martin of Springburn: I make
no criticism of the Speaker's Counsel.
Q163 Sir Malcolm Rifkind: It is the
Clerk of the House. In paragraph 17 you say: "I am disappointed
that the Clerk of the House, who also holds the office of Chief
Executive, was out of the country when there was so serious a
situation in the House."
Lord Martin of Springburn: Bear
this in mind, Sir Malcolm: we now have what they call seven-day
a week 24-hour media and by then the word was out and the television,
the media and all that were really seriously going at the matter.
The Leader of the Opposition had had his say. The Leader of the
House, as I say, was appearing on television. The Speaker cannot
appear on television. The Speaker cannot rebut anything; it is
not the done thing. Others can criticise but the Speaker cannot
rebut. Here was a crisis going on and, okay, I was up in Glasgow
but that is well within travelling distance of London. The Chief
Executiveand I did not give him that title, the House gave
him that title; Tebbit said that this Clerk will be the Chief
Executiveof the organisation left to go on holiday abroad
and, yes, I was deeply disappointed that that happened.
Q164 Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Just a
final question. I am genuinely puzzled, Lord Martin. Do you not
think in retrospect that perhaps it would have been appropriate
for you, having been informed on the day of the arrest that a
Member of Parliament was going to be arrested later that day and
his office was going to be searched it might have been more appropriate
for you as Speaker to immediately call a meeting of your senior
advisers to be advised as to what is the proper procedure when
that might be about to happen in order that you could be satisfied
that all the steps, not just people being informed, were being
taken that could be taken and do you not accept that if you had
done that it is likely that you would have been informed that
a warrant was necessary?
Lord Martin of Springburn: If
we could all turn the clock back that would be great. Everybody
is great at saying what you should have done after the event.
Let me say this: I also had the worryand I have said this
to Sir Alanthat it was an investigation by an anti-terrorist
squad and I might have been seen to be interfering with an anti-terrorist
group, but at the end of the day what I would say is I expected
a senior official in charge of security to let the other officers
know, particularly Speaker's Counsel.
Q165 Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Forgive
me Lord Martin but you are saying with the benefit of hindsight
certain things might have been done differently by you but you
are not offering that excuse to the Clerk of the House or to the
Serjeant at Arms. You are being very critical of the way they
behaved and suggesting they should have behaved in a different
Lord Martin of Springburn: Sir
Malcolm, I understand you are an advocate.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Not since
Q166 Mr Blunkett: It shows!
Lord Martin of Springburn: You
do not forget where you came from. Bear this in mind: any Speaker
I know of or any Member holding office in the House of Commons
is a lay man and woman who was elected, cabinet ministers are
the same, and the professionals around you are there to look after
your interests and to advise you and to see that things do not
go wrong and, okay, a terrible mistake was made but for the Chief
Executive to go abroad, well, I will leave that for you to draw
your own conclusion on.
Q167 Mr Henderson: Lord Martin, I
am trying to get to grips with the gist of your statement up to
this point. As I understand it, you say in paragraph 7: "It
was my understanding that such matters would always be discussed
with senior officers as necessary before I was informed."
I think we would all recognise that there are many issues that
come before the Speaker every day and that it is not always possible
to investigate every issue in great detail and the gist of your
statement is that the Speaker is heavily dependent on advice from
the Clerk, from the Speaker's Counsel, and from the Serjeant.
Can I ask two questions about that. If that is to be a credible
argument, then did you have confidence in the structure of the
relationship among those officers, between the Clerk, the Speaker's
Counsel and the Serjeant at Arms? That is my first question. My
second question, which is linked to that, is were you confident
about the competence of the Serjeant at Arms in relation to those
structures, in other words the relationship with the other officers,
and in relation to carrying out her everyday tasks at that point?
Lord Martin of Springburn: Well,
let me say, Mr Henderson, that the office of Serjeant was held
by a person who had been 17 years a servant of the House of Commons.
In fact I recall she was the personal assistant to the Serjeant
at Arms when the very building we are in, Portcullis House, opened
up in the year 2000, the year I became Speaker, because one of
my first duties was to open this building and there is a booklet
telling you about all the people involved. Also that confidence
was there in the sense that, as I said previously, the Serjeant
had arrived on a short list of five people and had been honed
down to two people. Certainly you might use the word "confidence"
but my expectation would be that the Serjeant should have known
to involve the other officers, particularly when the two senior
clerks were her immediate superiors and she was answerable to
them. For previous Serjeants it was different.
Q168 Mr Henderson: Given what you
knew about those relationships and what you knew about the Serjeant,
were you confident that that would have been done in this instance?
Hindsight tells us something different.
Lord Martin of Springburn: You
use the word confidence. I would have expected that would have
Q169 Mr Henderson: But were you confident
that it would have been done?
Lord Martin of Springburn: All
I can say is that in the circumstances at the time when this was
put to me, and it was put to me on a confidential basis, yes,
I think the term `confident' would fit with what my feeling of
my expectation was that that should have happened.
Q170 Ms Hewitt: Lord Martin, you
have told us that the Serjeant at Arms reports to the Clerk Assistant
and from him to the Clerk of the House. Who does the Clerk of
the House report to?
Lord Martin of Springburn: Well,
the Clerk of the House reports to the Speaker and the Clerk of
the House has several roles, Ms Hewitt. He is the accounting officer
in charge of all the accounts of the House of Commons and he also
has the role of Chief Executive. Let me tell you in the days of
Robin CookGod rest himthat when he was Leader of
the House there was a feeling that the role of Chief Executive
and the Clerk should have been separate because the Clerk was
Q171 Ms Hewitt: I remember that.
Lord Martin of Springburn: The
Clerk was seen as a procedural officer and a procedural expert
and that perhaps the organisation had got so big that we should
now get a Chief Executive in. The then Clerk fought very hard
against that idea. I have made reference to the Tebbit Report.
There was a report called the Braithwaite Report and the then
Clerk Sir William McKay said no, that role has got to be one and
the other. So who is the Clerk accountable to? Well, the elected
Member that he would deal with mostly would be the Speaker but
not exclusively because bear in mind that the Speaker would not
have a right to tell him what to do in terms of being the accounting
officer. He is responsible for all the accounts of the House and
the Speaker would not be able to overrule a Clerk in many areas
of his work. I would say in answer to you, Mr Henderson, as well,
talking about confidenceand it is not for me, I have left
the role of Speaker to Speaker Bercowthe House has a responsibility
to look after this. We are now dealing with this seven-day a week
24-hour a day media. The Clerks are excellent procedural experts
and I found as Speaker that on a Monday to a Friday there was
that solid advice that I could tap into, but I think it is a fair
criticism to say that the Clerks still live in that era when people
like the Speaker and others in that role were left alone and were
not bothered at the weekend. When the media got started was on
a Friday afternoon and I foundand I made a criticism of
thatthat getting hold of a Clerk at the weekend was very,
very difficult to do.
Q172 Ms Hewitt: That is a very helpful
clarification, thank you, but on that point can you remember when
the Clerk of the House went abroad that week of the 26/27/28 November?
Lord Martin of Springburn: Well,
it all broke on the Thursday. Certainly by the Friday morning
he was at his home in Portugal; he was not here. And, by the way,
when I met with Speaker's Counsel on 2 December, okay, we are
talking calmly now, but I was not talking calmly then about all
of this going on. On 2 December the first thing I put to the Clerk
was that he should not have left the country. It was not the first
time that that had happened.
Mr Blunkett: Chairman, that is what I
was trying to clarify a little when Michael Howard was questioning
the Speaker because I think it is quite important we know when
and where and at what point the Clerk was available and when he
Chairman: We will be taking evidence
from him in due course and we will be able to deal with that matter
Q173 Ms Hewitt: Just one more question
on that matter. Lord Martin, at that meeting on 2 December I think
you made it clear, and there seems to be general agreement, that
there had been serious failures in communication and in the management
of and response to this very serious issue. We have been talking
a lot about the benefit of hindsight. I just wonder whether, given
the benefit of hindsight, you can tell the Committee how you think
matters should have been handled once the police told the Serjeant
that there might be the arrest of a Member?
Lord Martin of Springburn: I had
no knowledge of the fact that an approach was made on the 20th,
six days before I was approached, that the police were interested
in this particular situation and, with hindsight, that is when
the Serjeant should have gone to her immediate superior and said
this is happening and then things would have fallen into place
because I would have probably found that rather than saying whether
I should have gone for advice that what would have happened is
that the Clerks would have then said, "This is something
we had better take to the Speaker," so it was being done
in the normal way. On 2 December I was not even getting the full
story. I was being told that the approach was made the night before
to the Serjeant but the Johnston Report tells me that it was made
on the 20th. With hindsight, that is the way it should have been
done. I am still trying to work out to this day, bear in mind
I was told in the morning, okay, there was this problem and I
said, "Please phone me," and bear in mind that the business
of the House on a Wednesday is earlier and that afternoon I was
out of the building on a personal matter but I had given my mobile
number and the residence number and at 5 o'clock I was back in
the residence and a phone call was made to me to say that there
was no name that could be provided. What I cannot understand is
why I was not told that there was a meeting at 3.30 that day in
the Serjeant's office discussing entry into the House of Commons.
Mr Howard and Sir Malcolm said why did you not do this. All of
these things would have got my alarm bells going. I would have
said, "Wait a minute, what is this meeting with the police?"
I cannot understand why I was not told, "By the way, I have
had a meeting with four officers including Chief Superintendent
Bateman." The Clerk has a responsibility on the Parliamentary
Estate. I also find it hard to take in that a Serjeant or a junior
person comes into a Clerk Assistant and says, "Do I have
a right to bring in the police?" Let me put it to you, Patricia,
if I came into the tea room and said to you, "Do I have a
right to bring the police in?" the first thing you would
say is, "Michael, why are you asking me these questions?
Is there something going on?" The Clerk Assistant then put
it on to the most senior Clerk and the Clerk said yes she had
authority but that authority was with certain conditions. But
still, neither of those most two senior officers in the House
asked why these questions were being put. I find it hard to take
in that two experts in procedure would just say you have got the
authority. One passed it on up the line to the other without asking
why was the question being posed and the other said yes you have
and left it at that.
Q174 Ms Hewitt: Indeed, despite being
experts in procedure, neither the Clerk nor the Clerk Assistant
seem to have looked at the Sir William McKay memorandum designed
to deal with exactly this situation arising written back in 2000.
Lord Martin of Springburn: This
is where the Speaker is dependent on those around him who have
that expertise. By the way, once the serious situation had arrivedI
am talking about from 1 December onwardsyou heard evidence
there were letters to and from Damian Green saying he did not
understand why the matter could not have been discussed on the
Floor of the House. All the procedural expertise was brought into
being then, so, with hindsight, if we had had that type of expertise
before the event it would have been very helpful indeed.
Q175 Chairman: Just before I bring
Ann Coffey in, there is one matter I think I ought to put to you,
Lord Martin, and it is this: in paragraph 29 of your statement,
still referring to the meeting on 2 December about which you have
told us number of things, you tell us in the second sentence:
"I asked the Serjeant why she had conducted herself in this
manner" and then you go on to say: "The Clerk of the
House intervened to say that Chief Superintendent Bateman had
bamboozled the Serjeant and tricked her into keeping the matter
from her immediate superiors. The Clerk went on to say that, while
Chief Superintendent Bateman was a Metropolitan Police officer,
he also had a duty towards the House." May I take it that
would you would not have reproduced those sentences unless you
had a clear recollection that that was what the Clerk said in
the course of that meeting?
Lord Martin of Springburn: I have
got a clear recollection. The position was this, if I just refer
to my notes, that present at that meeting was myself, obviously,
the Clerk, the Serjeant, and I insisted that Speaker's Counsel
be there and Angus Sinclair, the Speaker's Secretary, was there.
Of course, as I said to Mrs Hewitt, I was appalled at the idea
of this "what if" scenario, leaving police officers
sitting in a room and saying, "Right, I will go away and
find out," and this was done in a clandestine manner as far
as I was concerned. We are talking calmly here but I was not so
calm in that meeting. I said, "Why did you conduct yourself
in this manner?" Clearly at that stage before the Serjeant
at Arms could answer that question, the Clerk came in and said
that Chief Superintendent Bateman had bamboozled the Serjeant
and tricked her into keeping the matter from her immediate superiors.
He also said that whilst Chief Superintendent Bateman was an officer
of the Metropolitan Police because of his secondment to the Parliamentary
Estate he had a duty to keep everyone right. The Serjeant did
not dissent from that remark that was made. Could I be allowed
to double check that those present were present. Speaker's Counsel
Q176 Chairman: The reason I am asking
you this question, Lord Martin, as I am sure you will understand,
is that this is a very serious charge indeed to make about the
Chief Superintendent because you did not make the charge but it
was a charge which was made by the Clerk in your presence which
you noted and which you have placed now before the Committee in
Lord Martin of Springburn: I am
placing that before the Committee. Let me say that I had met Chief
Superintendent Bateman on a number of occasions and I have always
found him to be professional and courteous. I would not say I
had met him on a regular basis. And, yes, I felt that putting
that in my statement I had to make it clear that blame was being
put here in saying that there was an admission at that meeting
that the Serjeant had kept matters back but she was doing so because
she had been tricked by Chief Superintendent Bateman.
Q177 Chairman: An allegationbecause
we must treat it as that for this purposethat a senior
police officer had tricked the Serjeant at Arms of the House of
Commons would be an allegation of the utmost seriousness.
Lord Martin of Springburn: It
is very serious. Let me say, Sir Menzies, that I have known everyone
round this table for at least two decades perhaps even longer.
I even knew your father before you.
Chairman: That of course is a
well-known Scottish introduction.
Q178 Mr Henderson: That is where
that phrase came from.
Lord Martin of Springburn: I kent
your father well! Let me say this: I think people know me well
enough. I consider myself speaking here as if I am speaking on
oath although I have not been asked to take an oath. I think people
know me well enough to know I would not say something like that
about someone who is a career officer unless it was said in that
room. The only reason I mention it was that I was deeply concerned
about the information being kept from me and blame was being put
on to someone else.
Chairman: I am very grateful for that
explanation, Lord Martin. Ann Coffey?
Q179 Ann Coffey: Do you think that
the Speaker or the Serjeant ever should be allowed to consent
to the search of a Member's personal office on the Parliamentary
Estate without the Member's agreement?
Lord Martin of Springburn: What
I would say, Ann, is that there is now a Protocol. We have all
been talking about hindsight. This situation did not turn up on
every occasion and some Speakers have been very lucky that nothing
like that has ever happened to them. You will understand that
in my statement on 3 December that a Protocol has been put in
place which I hope would avoid that. The other thing is that I
do understand from the Johnston Report or the other report that
was done by Denis O'Connor that a Protocol has actually been put
up for departments to adhere to and to take into due consideration
the House of Commons if an investigation takes place. I think
that what you put to me there is should a search take place without
the Member's consent. My understanding, and I went through it
with Speaker's Counsel and Speaker's Counsel is emphatic and it
is maybe something you should put to him, is that you cannot stop
a warrant and therefore in a sense that would be without the Member's
permission. If a Member let the police search then you would not
need a warrant but a Speaker could not stop a warrant. From this
day on I think a warrant would be signed by a judge as opposed
to a lay magistrate living in a flat in Pimlico. It would have
to be a judge that would have to get certain proof.