Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Thursday, 5 February 2009

Green anger at Speaker statement

Damian Green MP
Mr Green was arrested in November as part of a Home Office leaks inquiry

Tory MP Damian Green has protested angrily that he is being prevented from talking in Parliament about a police investigation involving him.

He said it was "extraordinary" the Speaker had taken Scotland Yard's word about a request to see details of his e-mails but had not approached him.

He was ordered to stop speaking by Deputy Speaker Sylvia Heal.

Mr Green said it was "absurd" that he could not discuss the inquiry into Home Office leaks inside the Commons.

'Relevance'

Several MPs raised concern over a statement by Commons Speaker Michael Martin about e-mails sent between Damian Green and former shadow home secretary David Davis.

Mr Martin said Metropolitan Police solicitors had contacted Mr Green's solicitors to judge the "relevance" of e-mails they already held to the ongoing criminal inquiry.

But they had not attempted to get hold of new e-mails, he added.

Later, Mr Green told the Commons: "I find it extraordinary that in a matter which concerns emails between two Members of this House, and the fact that they may be private, the House authorities didn't approach me to establish facts, but have approached the Metropolitan Police and have taken as the basis for a Speaker's statement, the police's own version of events - and only their version."

As several Tories muttered "disgraceful", Mr Green continued: "Even more seriously, the House will wish to know that Mr Speaker has declined my request that the Standards and Privileges committee look at the material seized from my office to decide what is privileged."

He went on: "Instead the clerks to this House...."

But he was cut short by Ms Heal, who was in the chair instead of Mr Martin.

She told the Tory MP: "You are an experienced Member of this House and know it is not the appropriate way to question the statement of the Speaker.

"I will ensure the remarks you have made are brought to Mr Speaker's attention."

Cut short

Mr Green, who denies any wrongdoing, rose to his feet again, protesting: "It is absurd that I can say things outside this House but not inside..."

Mrs Heal cut him short again, saying: "I've already made a ruling. It is open to you to write to the Speaker in addition to the action I will take in ensuring your comments are brought to his attention."

Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve said: "The way in which this matter is now developing appears now to give rise to very serious concern."

Labour backbencher David Winnick said: "It's important to bear in mind that the concern is not confined... to the opposition benches."

The Scotland Yard inquiry relates to leaks by a member of staff at the Home Office.

A police search of Mr Green's Westminster office in November, without a warrant, caused anger among MPs.

The Speaker said in December that police would in future always need a warrant for such a move.

He also stated that he would have to personally approve any police requests to enter an MP's office or to look at their papers.

On Monday, former shadow home secretary David Davis asked the Speaker to clarify the rules regarding police access to e-mails he had exchanged with Mr Green.

He said: "My honourable friend [Mr Green] has been approached by the Metropolitan Police and asked for access to e-mail between him and myself.

"Does this come under your ruling that it will require a warrant and will be referred to you for your personal decision?"

The Speaker said on Monday that he was not aware of the request, saying it was "news" to him.

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