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

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 430-439)


23 NOVEMBER 2009

  Q430 Chairman: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Thank you very much for coming. I believe, Mr McDowall, you have got someone who will pass you papers.

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner McDowall: If necessary, yes.

  Q430  Chairman: We are very grateful to you for making yourselves available. I think you are aware of the remit of this Committee and of the issues that we have been considering, and I imagine you may have seen some of the transcripts of earlier evidence and are familiar with these. There is one particular matter, Mr Bateman, which I think you will have appreciated is something that we will want to explore with you in detail arising out of a conversation at which you were not present on 2 December when certain—allegations is perhaps a little strong—observations were made which no doubt you will wish the opportunity to deal with. First of all I should ask you if you would formally identify yourselves for the record.

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner McDowall: I am John McDowall, Deputy Assistant Commissioner with the Counter-Terrorism Command in the Metropolitan Police Service.

  Chief Superintendent Bateman: Good afternoon. Ed Bateman, Chief Superintendent. I am your Head of Security here at the Houses of Parliament.

  Q431  Chairman: Mr Bateman, you have provided a memorandum and I think it would be helpful to the Committee if you were simply to read that into the record. You would be happy to do that for us?

  Chief Superintendent Bateman: Very happy, thank you very much. Thank you for the opportunity. Since November 2007, I have been the Head of Security at the Palace of Westminster. As the officer in charge of the Metropolitan Police Service Security Force, my role is to work with the Serjeant at Arms in the Commons, Black Rod in the Lords and the Parliamentary Security Co-ordinator, to provide a safe and secure environment within Parliament. Part of this role is to provide an interface between Parliament and the MPS. A recent example of this was February 2007 with the "Plane Stupid" demonstration on the roof of Parliament that led to me facilitating on separate occasions meetings or conversations between Serjeant at Arms, Jill Pay, and the investigating officers and Black Rod and the investigation officers. In the case of the "Plane Stupid" intrusion, Jill Pay, with the consent of the Member involved, authorised officers to enter and search a Member's office in Portcullis House for evidence of an offence allegedly committed by a researcher. A more recent example of this side of my role involved Members and Peers' expenses when, following a request from the House, I facilitated an introductory meeting between officials and police. In most cases, once I have brought parties together I withdraw as I am not part of the investigation team and my personal involvement becomes unnecessary. Cases often involve high degrees of confidentiality. On Thursday 20 November 2008 at five o'clock I met with a detective sergeant from the MPS Counter-Terrorism Command at Portcullis House, SW1. The officer asked me a series of hypothetical questions concerning the arrest of a Member. Specifically, our conversation was focused on the likely view of the Serjeant at Arms to a request to search a Member's private offices within the building. The officer did not provide details of who the MP was, their party, or of the allegation being investigated. I agreed to speak with Serjeant at Arms, Jill Pay, to seek out her view. I met with Jill Pay later that evening and rehearsed the same conversation. I advised Serjeant at Arms, Jill Pay, that the CPS were considering police investigation evidence concerning an MP. The MPS expected to receive advice concerning the offences being investigated the following week. Jill Pay provided a "provisional" opinion that she would have the authority to grant consent to search a Member's office were they being investigated for a criminal offence. Following the meeting I contacted the officer who had visited me at Portcullis House and informed him of the Serjeant at Arms' view. I met again with the Serjeant at Arms on a number of occasions between 20 November and 26 November on unrelated matters. On several of those occasions Jill asked me whether the MPS had received the CPS advice. Whilst I do not recall whether it was at our first meeting on 20 November or a later discussion before 26 November, we did have a detailed conversation as to why the MPS were approaching the House seeking consent to search as opposed to immediately applying to a magistrate to secure a warrant. It was, and remains, my understanding that Jill Pay was very clear that a warrant was unlikely to be granted by a magistrate unless it could be shown that a person on the premises with the authority to provide consent was either unavailable or refused to do so. My recollection is that Jill Pay was aware that the MPS were content and prepared to seek a search warrant from a magistrate, if necessary, but could not do so until the House had considered its position and declined to consent. Again, while I am not able to say definitely on what day the conversation took place, I can confirm that I told the Serjeant at Arms in one of our earlier conversations that although the investigation was being conducted by officers from the Counter-Terrorism Branch, it was not terrorist related. This was explained to me by the counter-terrorist detective sergeant on 20 November and I was authorised to share this information with Jill Pay. I am aware from reading evidence already given to the Committee that it has been suggested that I may have coerced the Serjeant at Arms into not including her senior colleagues in the information given to her in confidence during the week of 20¸27 November. That was never my intention. Indeed, I approached the Serjeant at Arms on the evening of 20 November in the knowledge and belief that she would consult colleagues before coming to a decision as to whether or not the House would consent to a search of a Member's office following their arrest. It was my understanding throughout that period that the Serjeant at Arms was applying for, and receiving, appropriate advice from senior colleagues. I do not have a relationship with the senior Clerks to the Houses, Speaker, or Lord Speaker, other than through the offices of the Serjeant at Arms or Black Rod. I would never assume to be in a position to direct or influence with whom or how the Serjeant at Arms performed her role. I do not recall advising Jill Pay that she did not have to consent. However, because Jill Pay had understood the position that the MPS would approach a magistrate and apply for a search warrant in the absence of consent, my presumption was, knowing the alternative, she knew that she did not have to consent to the search. On Wednesday 26 November, together with a detective chief inspector, a detective inspector, and the detective sergeant I had met on 20 November, I met with Jill Pay in her office. The detective chief inspector began by informing Jill Pay that the MPS were investigating a sensitive allegation involving an MP. Jill Pay confirmed that wherever a Member had an office on the estate it would be regarded as "the Commons" and was, therefore, under her jurisdiction. The officers repeated the earlier asked question concerning whether she could or would give authority to search an MP's office if they were arrested for a criminal offence. The detective inspector set out clearly why they were seeking consent as opposed to relying upon a warrant. They explained that the issue focused on the fact that there was an authorised person (the Serjeant at Arms) on premises able to grant consent. There was a discussion with Jill Pay concerning from where the Serjeant gets the authority to search parts of the Commons. I recall the detective inspector speaking on a mobile telephone to MPS lawyers. Jill Pay then left the room stating she would seek legal advice. Approximately ten minutes later, the Serjeant at Arms returned informing the room that she would have the authority to authorise such a search. From subsequent conversations with Jill Pay I am aware that the advice was taken directly from the Clerk to the House of Commons, Dr Malcolm Jack. Jill Pay was emphatic that she would need to include the Speaker before any arrest and search. The detective chief inspector declined to provide the name of the MP or the alleged offence. The meeting then agreed that the detective sergeant would return at 0645 on 27 November, with me, to brief Jill Pay and provide details of the MP and of the allegation. This would be immediately before arrest. Jill Pay stated that she would put Mr Speaker on standby to receive a telephone call from her at 0730. On Thursday 27 November at 0650 myself, the detective sergeant and two further officers met with Jill Pay at her private apartments within Parliament. The detective sergeant informed her that Damian Green MP was the Member being investigated and provided details of the allegation. An officer explained the "Premises Searched" form. Jill Pay listened and at one point repeated the conversation of the previous day explaining that she was consenting, as she understood that applying for a warrant in these circumstances was unlikely to succeed. By this I mean that it was believed that the court would not grant a warrant unless police could demonstrate that they had sought the consent of the Palace of Westminster and that this consent had been refused. Jill Pay signed the form consenting to the search. At no time was Jill Pay told that she had to consent or was that inferred. Jill Pay was in control of the meeting and we (the police) were there to brief her. Jill Pay was informed that the arrest would be delayed possibly until mid-morning due to dignity and proportionality issues. The Serjeant at Arms took notes with a view to briefing Mr Speaker by telephone at 0730. Jill Pay informed the group that the Speaker was leaving his apartments at 0740 to catch a plane to Scotland. Jill Pay rehearsed her briefing in front of the group. It was agreed that the Serjeant at Arms would only give very brief facts and that an officer would listen to her conversation. At 0730 Jill Pay rang Mr Speaker from the next-door room. The detective sergeant stood at the door to the room (although I could also hear the conversation). Jill Pay told the Speaker the MP's details, the exact wording of the allegation, a brief context including that it concerned a "Whitehall leak" and the fact that she was authorising a search of his private office. The call lasted less than one minute. She then returned to the room. Jill Pay said that Mr Speaker had asked no questions but had said that Damian Green was a "nice man". At about 1450 on 27 November I received a telephone call from the detective sergeant stating that an MP and a second person had entered Damian Green's office whilst it was being searched and filmed the scene and the conversation. They were still there during our conversation. I was at New Scotland Yard, but immediately contacted the Serjeant at Arms by mobile telephone and asked her to intervene. I received an e-mail from Jill Pay at 1641 stating that she had subsequently challenged the Member concerning his actions. Jill Pay informed me that she had formally asked him to return the tape from the camera. The Member stated that it had already left the estate. In support of the consent given at 0730, Jill Pay later confirmed her decision in a letter dated 27 November sent to the detective sergeant and copied in to me. Chairman, that is my statement.

  Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr Bateman. Sir Alan Beith is going to begin with some questions to you, Mr McDowall.

  Q432  Sir Alan Beith: Mr McDowall, you are the National Co-ordinator of Terrorist Investigations with the rank of Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, is that correct?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner McDowall: That is correct, Sir Alan, yes.

  Q433  Sir Alan Beith: Do your command responsibilities within the Metropolitan Police include all of the previous functions of Metropolitan Police Special Branch?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner McDowall: That is correct. Yes, I think they are all now contained within my command. Yes.

  Q434  Sir Alan Beith: Do you find that any confusion arises from your title and the fact that you carry out responsibilities that have nothing to do with terrorist investigations?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner McDowall: I have not hitherto been aware of any confusion arising as a result of that, no, Sir.

  Q435  Sir Alan Beith: But you or your officers will find yourselves in situations where you describe yourselves as from the Counter-Terrorism Branch on matters which have nothing to do with terrorism?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner McDowall: Indeed, Sir Alan. I would expect them to explain that they were not engaged on counter-terrorism issues.

  Q436  Sir Alan Beith: The Cabinet Office Director of Security and Intelligence, Chris Wright, wrote to Mr Quick on 8 October 2008 and said: "We are in no doubt that there has been considerable damage to national security already as a result of some of these leaks". That was not true, was it?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner McDowall: At the time, Sir, clearly we were not aware of how much truth there was in that statement. It was an invitation, I think, to investigate to establish whether that was the case or not.

  Q437  Sir Alan Beith: The fact that you were carrying out the investigation must have been based on the assumption that an offence against the Official Secrets Act had taken place.

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner McDowall: Initially, Sir, yes, it was felt that was the substance of the allegation.

  Q438  Sir Alan Beith: Should not the police have withdrawn once it became clear who the perpetrator of the leaks was and, therefore, much clearer as to what the extent of the leaks were because did it not then become an internal disciplinary matter for the Home Office?

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner McDowall: I think it is difficult at the outset and, indeed, as the investigation continues quite often to ascertain exactly where the investigation is going to take you, where the evidence will lead you. Even at the point when the scoping exercise had been done there still existed the possibility that other offences may appear as a result of that search for evidence. When it became clear that it looked as though offences against the Official Secrets Act were not at that time made out we sought the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service who informed us that, on the face of it at least, there was the possibility that offences of misconduct in a public offence were present.

  Q439  Sir Alan Beith: You used the phrase "not made out". That implies there was evidence to suggest that such offences had been committed but insufficient evidence to put before a court rather than that there had been no evidence even to that point of any leak which was damaging to national security.

  Deputy Assistant Commissioner McDowall: I think, Sir, at that point there was a total of 32 leaks which were the subject of concern by two government departments in particular and at that stage we were investigating to establish whether any of those leaks were connected and if we could ascertain who was responsible for them. I think at least one of those leaks potentially could fall to be considered under the Official Secrets Act.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2010
Prepared 22 March 2010