Examination of Witness (Question Numbers
2 NOVEMBER 2009
Q180 Ann Coffey: I understand that.
For the Member involved, as you quite rightly say, it makes very
little difference that their office is searched by a warrant or
by the consent of the Speaker or the Serjeant because basically
their office has been compulsorily searched without their consent.
Interestingly enough, in the Johnston Report when it refers to
this issue it specifically says: "The conditions of application
for a search warrant specify that a justice of the peace is likely
to refuse to issue a warrant if he or she is not satisfied that
entry to the premises will be refused without a warrant. This,
in effect, encouraged the police to consider use of the consent
as the first option. Warrants can be issued for the Palace of
Westminster". However, a district judge had already granted
warrants for the arrest of Damian Green, searches of his houses
and constituency offices. Do you think there was something the
police thought was special about the Parliamentary Estate that
involved a different kind of approach and consultation? Did they
believe there was somehow a privilege accorded to Members which
meant they had to approach things very differently, because why
not simply get another warrant?
Lord Martin of Springburn: They
must have thought that. No-one knew that these meetings were going
on between the Serjeant and the police. They did not hesitate
in getting a warrant for a Member of Parliament's home and there
could well be privileged documents in that home. In fact, I happened
to have an office in my house when I was a Member of Parliament
and there would have been privileged documents in that home. There
would be privileged documents in a constituency office. I do not
know a great deal about police operations but what I was told
after the event was that they realised they would not have got
a magistrate to sign a warrant.
Q181 Ann Coffey: For the House of
Lord Martin of Springburn: That
is what I have been told. They would not have got a magistrate
to sign a warrant and certainly a judge would have been the person
that they would have had to go to. I think that the search by
strange coincidence happened at the time when we were all going
Q182 Ann Coffey: So you think that
basically the police thought they could not get a warrant for
this place and they were using this issue of consent, which was
given by the Serjeant or the Speaker and not by the Member himself,
as a way of circumventing that slight difficulty they had?
Lord Martin of Springburn: There
is a word in Scotland called "sleekit" and they would
have been sleekit. They were doing it in a sleekit way to get
in. I was not there. They did not tell me what they were doing.
Q183 Ann Coffey: So you assumed that
they must have had a warrant?
Lord Martin of Springburn: I keep
coming back that I have been 30 years a Member of Parliament and
seven years a councillor, and that goes back to 1973 and not all
of my constituents were clean potatoes. The vast majority were
but there was the odd citizen who cut a few corners. When they
came to see me and said, "My house has been searched",
I did not have to say, "Oh, by the way was it a consent form?"
It was searched because it was a search warrant. I had the right
to presume that was basic.
Q184 Mr Blunkett: Can I just ask
one supplementary. Lord Martin, it is clear what happened in terms
of the search warrants that were obtained for Damian Green's home
and office outside the Commons, but I am still struggling to ascertain
exactly when you realised that there had not been a warrant obtained
for the entry into his office here.
Lord Martin of Springburn: I would
say when I got the phone call, when I was at my brother's house,
at five o'clock. These mobile phones are great but when you get
near some rural areas you do not always get a signal. My understanding,
and Angus Sinclair will be able to verify this, is Angus Sinclair
was told to get in touch with me at four o'clock and, of course,
his first port of call was at home and Mrs Martin then said, "If
you can't get him on the mobile, he's at his brother's house".
She had to go and get the number. It was five o'clock. The message
that was put to me from the Clerk via the Speaker's Secretary
was, "Yes, there's a search and there's a row but everything
has been done properly" and that was when my alarm bells
went and I said, "What are we talking about, "properly"?
What does that mean? I want to see the paperwork". Angus
did not have access to the paperwork at that stage. My alarm bells
started at five o'clock that night and I had a priority, I had
to get in touch with Mr McLoughlin because for a Speaker it is
not normally the Leader of the Opposition who would get in touch
with the Speaker, that contact is done through the Chief Whip
of Her Majesty's Opposition.
Q185 Ann Coffey: I want to be very
clear about this. The discussions that took place that you were
not party to, do you think that one of the reasons you were not
party to them was because if you had known that they had not got
a warrant you would have insisted that one be got? Is that what
Lord Martin of Springburn: That
is exactly what I think. If I had an approach from an officer
saying, "Look, there's a search but it's not going to be
a search warrant, it's going to be a consent", I would say,
"Wait a minute. No, no, what are we talking about here? No,
it's got to be a warrant and let's get everyone concerned involved".
I thought I was dealing with an officer who was on top of the
situation and knew what she was talking about. I had no idea that
these secret meetings were going on with the police. If I had
been told, "Well, there's some doubt as to how they are going
to get in", then everyone concerned, especially Speaker's
Counsel, would have been involved. I am deeply disappointed Speaker's
Counsel was not told on the day of that search. The Clerk discovered
the search was going on via the television but Speaker's Counsel
was not told. When I say "Speaker's Counsel", the department.
There is always a duty solicitor in Speaker's Council even if
the top person is out of town, but he was not out of town, he
was at Heathrow and could have been recalled. That is exactly
how I feel.
Q186 Chairman: Lord Martin, we are
very grateful to you for coming to give evidence and, as I said
earlier, for giving us a very extensive memorandum. Thank you
very much indeed for your evidence.
Lord Martin of Springburn: Thank
you very much.