Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 11:27 UK

MP expenses leak 'not for money'


Henry Gewanter: 'Nobody involved in this did it for money'

A middleman who helped pass on details of MPs' expenses to the Daily Telegraph has said it was done for the public good and not to make money.

Public relations consultant Henry Gewanter told the BBC's Newsnight he was "extremely proud" of his actions.

Mr Gewanter said he did not know the identity of the whistleblower and would not say where they worked.

Several newspapers were approached unsuccessfully before the Telegraph agreed to publish, he added.

'Protecting the sources'

Mr Gewanter told the programme: "Nobody involved in this did it for money.

"Being on your show tonight, I get fifty quid and cab fare home. That is the extent of the payments I actually will be seeing from this."

I thought it would be a very simple straightforward job, all I would have to do is approach one decent newspaper and that would be the end of it
Henry Gewanter

Asked if anyone else had received money, he said: "There were a number of conditions that we needed to impose on whichever newspaper got the story.

"Clearly the confidential details of the specifics with the Telegraph and indeed other discussions I had with other newspapers must remain confidential.

"I will say though that there were conditions which involved protecting the sources and that included the possibility of legal defence."

'Great surprise'

Mr Gewanter said he deliberately avoided meeting the whistleblower so he would be able to give as "little away as possible" should he be arrested.

Questioned about where the person worked, Mr Gewanter told Newsnight: "It is important that this whistleblower's protected from possible repercussions so I can't discuss anything about them."

Mr Gewanter said he was surprised how difficult it had been to get the information published.

"I thought it would be a very simple straightforward job, all I would have to do is approach one decent newspaper and that would be the end of it," he said.

"But to my great surprise, it turned out to be one of the most difficult, complicated and long-running projects of my entire life. Several newspapers were approached from several different newspaper groups."

'Destroy party'

He said none of the newspapers declined it, but they wanted it on their "own terms".

"One of the prime conditions was that whichever newspaper did get the exclusive had to be willing to cover every MP who misbehaved from whatever party.

"There is at least one newspaper who wanted to use it to destroy one party."

The computer discs offered to newspapers contained details of all MPs expenses dating back four years, including receipts submitted and notes to and from the Commons fees office, providing the Daily Telegraph with weeks of front page stories.

Most of the information was officially published last week in heavily edited form by the Commons authorities, with addresses, bank details and other information blacked out.

The source of the leak and the identity of the whistleblower remain a mystery - as has the amount of money they may have received from the Daily Telegraph, although Mr Gewanter appeared to pour cold water on reports it was as much as £350,000.

Other reports suggest it may have been about £70,000. The Telegraph has always declined to comment, although it has not denied that money changed hands.

Publication delay

Calls for a criminal investigation into the leak were rejected by the Metropolitan Police but the Commons authorities are still carrying out their own investigation.

Writing on his blog, BBC Newsnight political editor Michael Crick said: "I am told they are still pretty confident they know where the leak came from, but haven't got enough evidence yet.

"And I am also told that the leak inquiry is itself holding up official publication of expense details for 2008-09.

"The authorities fear that if they put in train publication for expenses for the last financial year then, with the leaker still in place, an unredacted version would simply end up in the hands of the Telegraph again."

It comes as the government outlined new laws which would mean MPs who break the rules on expenses could face up to a year in jail.

Commons leader Harriet Harman said there would be three new offences targeting false claims, not registering interests, and payments to MPs for raising issues in Parliament.

Ms Harman was revealing the government's plans for cleaning up Parliament in the wake of public anger over MPs' expenses claims.

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