Page last updated at 12:10 GMT, Thursday, 9 April 2009 13:10 UK

Johnson and Smith in Quick spat

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson is chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority

London mayor Boris Johnson has been accused of pre-empting the police by announcing the resignation of counter-terrorism chief Bob Quick.

Mr Johnson's office says he was within his rights as chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority to make the announcement in a BBC radio interview.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had wanted it to be handled by the police.

Sources say she is "irritated" by Mr Johnson's intervention - but his office insists there is no row.

Mr Quick decided to quit after being photographed revealing a secret document when he arrived for a Downing Street briefing on Wednesday.

The home secretary discussed his position on Wednesday afternoon with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, who agreed it had become "untenable".

'Very distinguished'

Ms Smith did not have the power to sack Mr Quick and wanted the police to take the lead in dealing with the matter, but sources say she did discuss the timing of Mr Quick's resignation with Sir Paul and informed the prime minister.

Home Office sources say she did not have any discussions with Mr Johnson, who was informed of Mr Quick's decision to quit at 0730 GMT on Thursday.

Why on earth a document like this isn't locked in a briefcase as a matter of routine, you just thought it would be blindingly obvious
Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary

Forty minutes later, Mr Johnson went on Radio 4's Today programme to announce he had accepted Mr Quick's resignation with "sadness".

He said the former assistant commissioner had a "very, very distinguished" career and that the memo incident had been "extremely unfortunate".

Home Office source say Ms Smith was "mildly irritated and bemused" by Mr Johnson announcing the resignation while she was being briefed on the anti-terrorism raids Mr Quick had accidentally revealed to photographers.

She was also said to be angry by what she saw as the Conservatives calling Mr Quick's position into question while the raids were ongoing.

In her statement, Ms Smith, who is said to have held Mr Quick in high regard, said he felt his position had become "untenable".

Ms Smith offered her "sincere appreciation" for his work which had "helped keep this country safe".

'Right decision'

But both the Conservatives and Lib Dems said he was right to resign.

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said Mr Quick had been guilty of an "extraordinary and very alarming lapse".

He told BBC News: "Fundamentally the issue was, are the people working alongside him in the security services, throughout counter-terrorist policing in this country, going to be able to have confidence in him after such a straightforward security breach, and the bit I don't understand is why on earth a document like this isn't locked in a briefcase as a matter of routine, you just thought it would be blindingly obvious."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "This was the right decision from Bob Quick. He resigned from a position of great responsibility in an honourable way.

"This should be a lesson to his political masters when they commit similar misjudgements and mistakes."

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone claimed Mr Quick had been "forced out" and that "al-Qaeda will be celebrating" - a suggestion firmly rejected by MPA deputy chairman Kit Malthouse.

Mr Malthouse said: "I think he is speaking from a position of ignorance rather than knowledge."

He said Mr Quick had been right to go, telling Sky News: "Although Bob has done the most fantastic job during his tenure in counter-terrorism and keeping London and the country safe, the mistake was of such gravity it undermined his credibility."

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