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

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 187-199)



  Q187 Chairman: Perhaps you should identify yourselves first for the record.

  Mr Sinclair: I am Angus Sinclair and I have been the Speaker's Secretary since July 2005.

  Mr Barratt: Peter Barratt, I am the Assistant Secretary and have been since December 2000.

  Q188  Chairman: You have been present throughout the course of the evidence given by the former Speaker, now Lord Martin, and you have heard the questions and the answers which he has given. I should perhaps have asked did you have any role in the preparation of this memorandum that he gave to the Committee?

  Mr Barratt: No Sir.

  Mr Sinclair: No.

  Q189  Chairman: Having listened to that evidence, is there any material point on which you would differ in your evidence from that given by Lord Martin or any additional or further explanation you can give the Committee which might be of assistance to us?

  Mr Sinclair: I think I could, Sir. I was called to see the Clerk at around about 4 o'clock on the Thursday and he told me that there had been a problem, that Damian Green's office was being searched and that the Serjeant had made a mistake by letting the police in with just a consent form.

  Q190  Sir Alan Beith: Who told you?

  Mr Sinclair: The Clerk.

  Q191  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: What day was this conversation?

  Mr Sinclair: This was on the 27th.

  Ms Hewitt: On the Thursday.

  Q192  Chairman: And was there any mention of anti-terrorism or anything of that kind?

  Mr Sinclair: There probably could have been because counter-terrorism I think was the phrase that was used but the Clerk added that he had instructed the Serjeant to write a restraining letter which would go with the consent form and he felt that would be enough to allow the search to have continued. It was clear to me that he had not known this for very long. It seemed to be new information and he told me that I should find where Speaker Martin was and to tell him what had happened and that particularly the consent form and the letter written, which of course I had not yet seen, were enough to satisfy police entry and a search of Mr Green's office.

  Q193  Chairman: This is very interesting. You were told that the Serjeant had signed the consent form but that she should write a restraining letter?

  Mr Sinclair: Well, a letter to the senior investigating officer.

  Q194  Chairman: But if the consent form had been signed and consent had therefore been granted, what did you understand the effect of a restraining letter might be?

  Mr Sinclair: Well I felt that the Clerk, who I thought understood these things better than I did, had felt that the consent form was probably not enough to allow a search to go ahead and there needed to be further information.

  Q195  Chairman: I am in some difficulty in following this, Mr Sinclair. A consent form was signed, we can accept that, but I am not sure, and maybe we will have to ask the Clerk about this, that a letter can modify that either to expand upon the powers given by it or to restrict the powers given by it but you understood together with a consent form a letter had been instructed to be sent?

  Mr Sinclair: Yes.

  Chairman: Perhaps we will try and find out where a copy of that letter is.

  Q196  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: Just to clarify, in the Speaker's statement he says at paragraph 26: "The Clerk told me that he had not known of the search until he saw it happening on television." Is that consistent with your own recollection?

  Mr Sinclair: That would be consistent with what I heard from the Clerk.

  Q197  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: The conversation you told us about happened on the same day?

  Mr Sinclair: Yes about two hours after the search had begun.

  Q198  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: So he first got to know about it because of the television not because he had been informed?

  Mr Sinclair: I do not know who told him.

  Q199  Chairman: He actually saw it happening.

  Mr Sinclair: It was on television.

  Sir Malcolm Rifkind: It was being reported presumably on television.

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