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Tuesday, July 27, 1999 Published at 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK

UK Politics

Chancellor's aide quits over leak

Don Touhig: Apologised unreservedly to MPs

The chancellor's parliamentary private secretary, Don Touhig, has resigned - but he still faces a Commons suspension for leaking a committee report.

Personal Statement from Don Touhig, MP
Mr Touhig is one of two Labour MPs who are expected to be suspended from the House of Commons over the leak.

The PPS to Chancellor Gordon Brown admitted requesting a document on child benefit from the Social Security Select Committee.

BBC Wales political correspondent David Cornock reports
Kali Mountford has also been recommended for suspension for passing on the information and has resigned from the committee.

Both MPs made statements in the Commons on Tuesday apologising unreservedly for their behaviour.

Personal Statement from Kali Mountford, MP
Ms Mountford said: "What started as a genuine attempt to be helpful to the Social Security's committee's deliberations unfortunately went very wrong."

A contrite Mr Touhig told MPs: "It is the duty of each of us to take responsibility for our actions and I do not shirk from that duty."

Child benefit report

[ image: Gordon Brown's PPS acquired the report]
Gordon Brown's PPS acquired the report
The report, published in February prior to the Budget, had been keenly anticipated as Mr Brown had been considering whether or not to tax child benefit.

Mr Touhig said that he had asked for the draft copy of the report after being approached by a number of MPs on the Social Security Committee to see if he could persuade Treasury ministers to give evidence to them.

He said he had only asked for the report in order to help the committee. Although he admitted he had been wrong to do so, he declined to name the MP who passed it to him.

The committee is recommending a three-day ban from the Commons for the chancellor's PPS.

MP initially denied responsibility

Ms Mountford is also expected to be suspended for leaking the report on child benefit.

The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee recommended that the MP for Colne Valley should apologise to the House for her role in the leak.

After Mr Touhig admitted receiving a photo-copy of a draft report from a member of the Social Security Committee, the Standards and Privileges Committee chairman Robert Sheldon wrote to all the committee members asking if they had been responsible.

[ image: Kali Mountford: Originally denied leaks]
Kali Mountford: Originally denied leaks
They all replied that they had not been. Ms Mountford who wrote: "My answer is no, I did not".

But after the investigation had been completed, she wrote again to Mr Sheldon admitting that it had been her and resigning her membership of the Social Security Committee.

In a letter to the committee chairman Robert Sheldon, Ms Mountford, who had frequently been absent from the Commons because of illness, said that had been "unsure how to interpret the criticism" following the leak.

She said that she thought she was helping the committee in its work as it had, unsuccessfully, been seeking to take evidence from Treasury ministers.

The committee said that while her relative inexperience, her illness and other circumstances of a "private and personal nature" were mitigating factors, she was wrong not to own up to the leak.

The committee said: "She aggravated her original offence by denying responsibility.

"It would have been much better for her and for everyone else involved if she made frank admission at the outset."

Earlier this month, Labour MP Ernie Ross was suspended from the Commons for 10 days for leaking a report by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on the arms-to-Africa affair to Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

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