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

Examination of Witness (Question Numbers 960-979)


14 DECEMBER 2009

  Q960  Sir Alan Beith: That is a very different argument. I understand your argument that you had established there was somebody who was prepared to enter safes and intercept correspondence within the private office and leak material from it, but by that time, you knew who it was, you knew what material he had access to, and you knew what had appeared in the public domain.

  Mr Quick: Yes, we knew some material had appeared in the public domain, and we knew what that was, but we had eventually recovered evidence that suggested that Mr Galley was communicating to Mr Green what he had access to, namely the private office in-tray, the SPD in-tray, I believe it was termed as, which were areas where we knew sensitive information flowed. So this was a very difficult dilemma, I think, for the police, because on the one hand, these facts created a duty to investigate and find out exactly what had been leaked by whom and to whom, and we were in the process of undertaking that, and part of undertaking that was the arrest of Mr Green.

  Q961  Sir Alan Beith: So what you are actually saying is, we have not got anything on the Official Secrets Act, but if we proceed with this misconduct in public office charge, we might turn something up?

  Mr Quick: Well, it was not the case of proceeding with that charge, that was the locus of the continued investigation in law, and under advice from Crown prosecutors, but there was as a matter of fact an obvious risk that secret material may have been leaked.

  Q962  Chairman: Are you familiar with Mr Micawber, Mr Quick, who was always bankrupt, but always hoped that something would turn up?

  Mr Quick: I think I have heard of that.

  Q963  Chairman: Did that characterise any of this?

  Mr Quick: No, because we were acting under very clear advice, and very clear facts and evidence about people's conduct, so I do not think this was speculative, we were following the evidence that was in front of us.

  Q964  Chairman: Can I just say something else on this unknown Opposition spokesman? I do not know in your world, but I can certainly tell you in our world that the remarks of an unidentified Opposition spokesman would normally be regarded with a certain amount of scepticism, and a large pinch of salt. How much reliance were you placing on observations of this kind, which might well have been hyperbole?

  Mr Quick: Of course. On the one hand, you might expect someone commenting publicly on something that is quite serious to be actually being frank and truthful, but at the same time, I do accept your point, it could have been exaggerated. However, of course, I was aware, from my role and position in the Metropolitan Police, that these inquiries do from time to time take place, and secret material is suspected of going missing.

  Q965  Mr Howard: You have referred, Mr Quick, several times, to the damage that might be caused by the documents you had identified and discovered in the context of the relationship between Mr Galley and Mr Green.

  Mr Quick: Yes.

  Q966  Mr Howard: What sort of damage do you have in mind?

  Mr Quick: Well, firstly, the question arose whether secret material had been leaked, and I think we were in the process of resolving that question. Secondly, there was a suggestion that damage may have been caused to the Home Office by the pattern of leaks which were breaking down trust, stifling frank and candid communications—forgive me, I cannot recite word for word the nature of the complaint.

  Q967  Mr Howard: How about having an impact on the efficient and effective conduct of Government business?

  Mr Quick: That is a passage from the letter from the Cabinet Office. A question does arise as to what damage was caused, and clearly, in order to answer that question, I think you are under a duty to find out what has been leaked.

  Q968  Mr Howard: No, but there is another question, you see, which is not how much damage was caused, but whether damage of that kind is any of your business.

  Mr Quick: I think I would refer to the Director of Public Prosecutions' commentary on 16 April, and it appears to me he clearly thinks that potentially it can be our business.

  Q969  Mr Howard: Were you influenced at all in your investigation by the inclusion of that phrase in the letter from Mr Wright?

  Mr Quick: Not unduly. It was a consideration. I think it was discussed in our Gold Group across the board whether Official Secrets Act type material had been leaked. That question was clearly recognised by the Gold Group that I chaired as being a question that was not capable of being resolved without investigation. Secondly, the question arose as to whether damage to government was being caused by these leaks, and again, it seemed sensible to establish exactly what had been leaked before trying to answer that question.

  Q970  Mr Howard: No one said in your Gold Group, "That is none of our business"?

  Mr Quick: No, and I believe it was our business to investigate this series of leaks.

  Q971  Chairman: Was one of the reasons because you had been asked by the Cabinet Office to investigate on the basis of a letter containing the observations that Mr Howard has referred to?

  Mr Quick: That was a complaint by the Civil Service to the police, I think it was legitimate. I know there are different opinions in relation to that.

  Q972  Chairman: The police did not write the letter.

  Mr Quick: No, we received a letter, and I thought it was a legitimate complaint, but certainly was not content just to rely on my own judgment, I consulted with senior colleagues in relation to that, I ensured that we took legal advice in relation to that from Crown prosecutors, and the conclusion of those discussions was that it was, of course, right and proper that the police did investigate.

  Q973  Mr Howard: We have seen the two letters from Mr Wright, and we know that a meeting took place between those two letters. Was it only just one meeting, or perhaps more than one? We do not know.

  Mr Quick: What I can tell you, and I know this particular sequence of events has been of interest, is that I initially met some representatives from the Cabinet Office who told me that Mr Wright was going to write to me, and that was a reference to the letter that I subsequently received I think on 8 October, although it was erroneously dated 8 September. At that meeting, the officials really at a very high level outlined this pattern of leaks that had been giving cause for serious concern in the Cabinet Office over a number of months and indeed years. I was also aware from my own knowledge that the Metropolitan Police had investigated some of these leaks at different times as and when they occurred. Leak inquiries are remarkably common unfortunately, they are an irritation to the police, and unfortunately, they do cause damage, and they do create havoc sometimes, and from time to time they have to be investigated. So I agreed in principle to investigate, subject to satisfying ourselves that criminal offences were involved, and liaising with Crown prosecutors. It just so happened that the day after, I left London to fly overseas on counter-terrorism matters, and my deputy had a number of contacts with the Cabinet Office. I understand that Sir Paul Stephenson, who was the Deputy Commissioner, in my view quite rightly had also said he wished to be satisfied that there were criminal offences involved, and he wished to be consulted about the terms of reference.

  Q974  Mr Howard: He originally took the view that criminal offences had not been involved.

  Mr Quick: Well, I think he took the same view that I took, that we wanted to be sure that criminal offences were potentially involved in this investigation, otherwise it most certainly would not have been an inquiry that we would have picked up. So following the scoping study, and a number of consultations with Crown prosecutors, I understand my deputy had a conversation with Mr Wright of the Cabinet Office, and I believe indicated to Mr Wright that she wished to agree the terms of reference for the initial stages of this investigation, and that the Deputy Commissioner in my absence was going to be consulted about those terms of reference, and that is in fact what occurred. So what happened was DAC Cressida Dick, my deputy, agreed that as an initial step into this investigation, a series of five leaks would come under initial prioritisation. In fact, I believe she may have written or at least spoken to Mr Wright, who then in turn wrote a letter in effect sort of acquiescing that these initial five leaks would be the start point for the investigation.

  Q975  Mr Howard: Not acquiescing, confirming.

  Mr Quick: Possibly, I cannot recall the letter, but you may—

  Q976  Mr Howard: That is the word he uses.

  Mr Quick: I accept he used the word confirming. I would say that it was not really for him to confirm, the police were in charge of this investigation. Ultimately, Sir Paul Stephenson was consulted about the terms of reference, I believe he approved them in my absence, and the investigation began. Shortly after my return, I received a number of briefings about progress, and it became apparent that Mr Galley was a suspect, and that there had been a sixth leak that had precipitated events, and so the decision was taken to arrest Mr Galley.

  Q977  Mr Howard: The letter of 29 October did not surprise you at all, the second letter from Mr Wright?

  Mr Quick: I must confess, I do not think I saw that letter until quite late on, but it did not surprise me, no, because the Cabinet Office were the complainants, and they have a professional view that we can consider and take account of, but once a criminal matter is referred to the police, then it is very much for the police to decide how that investigation goes forward, and as you will know, we do that in partnership with Crown prosecutors.

  Q978  Mr Howard: Can you think of any other potential victim of crime who would be able to ask the police to investigate, have a meeting with the police to negotiate or agree the terms of reference of the inquiry which the police would be about to carry out, and write a letter to the police confirming the scope of the police investigation?

  Mr Quick: Well, I can think of cases where we might be in that position, with a bank or a commercial institution, so that, believe me, is not uncommon. I ought to, for fairness, point out that to the best of my knowledge and belief, it was actually the police, namely my deputy, who sort of instigated that, because my understanding is the Deputy Commissioner wanted terms of reference to be agreed with the Cabinet Office, so I think it was in fact instigated by the police and not the Cabinet Office.

  Q979  Chairman: Can I ask some questions about the search of Mr Green's office here? You are aware of the role of the sergeant at arms in the House of Commons. Why was it that the Serjeant at Arms was given such limited information up until the point at which the arrest was made?

  Mr Quick: My belief is that the officers were naturally being somewhat cautious about who was briefed on the full extent of the investigation. This is very common practice, and I believe DAC McDowall alluded to this point. No matter who or what is under investigation, we generally operate on a need to know basis.

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