Forum

Latest News
  • Will Croft elected Leader of the Conservative party
  • South Pacific nations agree new alliance to counter China
  • Budget 2016: Chancellor faces global slowdown
  • Ministers embarrassed by ‘Legion’ leak
{"effect":"fade","fontstyle":"normal","autoplay":"true","timer":4000}

M4: Meeting Transcript Release  

Page 1 / 2
  RSS

William Croft
(@william-croft)
Member
Joined: 10 months ago
Posts: 260
19/07/2019 3:12 pm  
Madam Speaker,
 
I would like to table the following motion, to be considered as an Opposition Day Motion:
 
"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That she will be graciously pleased to give directions that transcripts of the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Right Honourable member for Bracknell on March 29 be laid before this House."
 
I think it is entirely inappropriate for Parliament, and by extension the British people, to be kept in the dark over the matters discussed between myself and the Prime Minister. I will always be an ardent supporter of government transparency, and have tabled this motion in order to use the proper Parliamentary convention to release the transcript of our meeting in line with British law. 
This topic was modified 5 months ago by William Croft

William Croft
Member of Parliament for Bracknell
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Chief Whip of the Conservative party


Quote
Josh
 Josh
(@michael-kirton)
Canadian AV A-team
Joined: 10 months ago
Posts: 50
19/07/2019 3:32 pm  

Order! The motion is in order. Resuming debate...

Your friendly neighbourhood Canadian AV


ReplyQuote
William Croft
(@william-croft)
Member
Joined: 10 months ago
Posts: 260
19/07/2019 4:18 pm  

Madam Speaker, 

I thank the Speaker for allocating time for this motion to be debated. 

I will keep this very brief and to the point. Unless dealing with extreme circumstances that could compromise national security, I do not believe that Government business should be conducted in secret. In choosing to meet directly with me, the Prime Minister sidestepped normal government convention and attempted to brief a singular Opposition MP rather than conveying information directly to the Leader of the Opposition. I believe this not only sets a dangerous precedent that future Prime Minister's could inappropriately follow, but I also believe it undermines the pursuit of the open and transparent government the British people deserve. 

In choosing to meet directly with me, and in utilizing the Official Secrets Act to prevent me from briefing my party and the public on what was discussed, the Prime Minister made the decision to knowingly conduct Government business in secret. These adhoc meetings, shrouded in secrecy and unable to be discussed under penalty of the law, allow Government officials to weaponize their authority and in turn shack the public's confidence in their elected leadership. The British people deserve a Prime Minister that is going to be straight with them; who will put the facts out in the public arena, use those facts to make her argument, and have her position challenged and debated. 

Instead, they evidently have one more comfortable in doing business behind closed doors when, in my estimation, there was no real national interest in doing so. 

My goal, and the goal of the Opposition, in introducing this Motion is simple: give the British people the ability to hold their democratically elected government accountable. The people have a right to know what was said in a meeting between the leader of their Government and an Opposition politician, they have the right to know their Prime Minister's position on pressing matters of the day, and they have the right to know how the leader of their Government conducts themselves in meetings with other Members of Parliament. 

This House has come along way in eliminating the secrecy and back door politics that used to shroud this body in an air of secrecy. The progress we made must not be undermined by a Government more comfortable doing deal behind closed doors then in the light of public scrutiny. 

I humbly ask that the House join me in supporting this common sense motion, so that the British people may have access to a redacted transcript, eliminating any information that would compromise national security if such information exists, and in turn have the tools necessary to hold their Government accountable. 

I commend this Motion to the House, Madam Speaker. 

William Croft
Member of Parliament for Bracknell
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Chief Whip of the Conservative party


ReplyQuote
William (Will) Conway
(@will-conway)
MP for Milton Keynes North
Joined: 6 months ago
Posts: 99
19/07/2019 5:57 pm  

Madam Speaker,

We confront an extraordinary situation, where the Prime Minister called in one member of the Shadow Cabinet for some unknown purpose, and has used the Official Secrets Act to entirely muzzle the Shadow Foreign Secretary.  Under this law, he is even barred from discussing what was said in his meeting with the Prime Minister even with his fellow members of the Shadow Cabinet, including the Leader of the Opposition.  This cannot be what was intended by those who drafted the Official Secrets Act in the first place.  It is not supposed to be an instrument to cover bullying and intimidation. 

And, as a member of the Shadow Cabinet, I frankly resent that we in the Shadow Cabinet, particularly our Leader, cannot be informed of what was discussed between the Prime Minister and the Shadow Foreign Secretary.  We are not the tabloid press.  We are the Official Opposition to this Government.  And we protest this treatment.

 

Will Conway
Conservative
MP for Milton Keynes North (2014- )
Shadow Secretary of State for Energy,
Environment and Climate Change (2016)

Parliamentary 16
Media 14
Policy 8


ReplyQuote
William Croft
(@william-croft)
Member
Joined: 10 months ago
Posts: 260
19/07/2019 8:19 pm  

Madam Speaker, 

I concur with my Hon. friend the Member for Milton Keynes North. He's hit the nail on the head: the transcript of the meeting should be released in order to determine if the Prime Minister invoked the Official Secrets Act in order to preserve national security, or in order to protect her own reputation. 

In my estimation, Madam Speaker, it was unfortunately the latter. I do not doubt the Prime Minister's commitment to keeping the British people safe, nor do I doubt that her intentions are to serve the people to the best of her abilities. What I do doubt, however, is her rational behind holding this meeting and her motives behind invoking the OSA. 

After the Prime Minister's multiple warnings of the consequences of violating the OSA, I decided to retain my own legal counsel. In doing so I was able to confirm that I do possess the legal right, under Parliamentary Privilege, to discuss the contents of the meeting that was held between myself and the Prime Minister. I will not go into details about any specific intelligence information that was discussed, but I will say this: based on the Prime Minister's behavior in the meeting, it was overwhelmingly clear that her intention was to use her authority in order to intimidate me out of continuing my remarks on Pakistan. 

In the meeting, the Prime Minister wasted no time in warning me that if I continued discussing my concerns over providing Pakistan with military aid, that there, "will be consequences for you." The use of this threatening and bizarrely vague language was unbelievably inappropriate, primarily because it was used just moments after the Prime Minister informed me that nothing she said could be discussed publicly as it would constitute a violation of the OSA. I did not ask for this meeting, I didn't ask for an intelligence briefing from the Prime Minister, and I certainly wasn't given the option to consent to the Prime Minister unilaterally invoking the OSA. 

In my estimation this meeting was far less about sharing intelligence information important for the Opposition to know, and far more about attempting to silence a single member of the Conservative Party from pursuing a political issue the Prime Minister took personal issue with. It is not the Prime Minister's prerogative to tell me, or my colleagues, which issues we may or may not discuss. Nor is it within her power to tell me I must stop speaking, or risk facing "consequences." Every Member of Parliament is within their right to disagree with the Prime Minister, and no Prime Minister should be permitted to attempt to silence an MP by intimidation. 

But I'm not asking the British people to simply take my word for it, I want them to decide for themselves. That can only happen if the Government will release the transcript of our meeting. It is not for me alone to say whether or not the Prime Minister acted inappropriately, but for the British people which she represents. They should make the ultimate judgement, and the transcript of our meeting should be released so they have the facts and information needed to do so. I would release it immediately if I could, but that is not a decision I can take alone. I implore the Prime Minister to do the right thing and disclose this information to the public. 

William Croft
Member of Parliament for Bracknell
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Chief Whip of the Conservative party


ReplyQuote
Steven Andrews
(@steven-andrews)
Member
Joined: 7 months ago
Posts: 120
19/07/2019 9:58 pm  

Mr. Speaker,
Based on the comments from my colleague the Member for Bracknell, it is painfully obvious that the Prime Minister is, to paraphrase the great Sir Humphrey Appleby, using the Official Secrets Act  to protect officials rather than secrets.  Her use of it reminds me of a particularly odious insider trading case in the United States where a businessman received unsolicited information and was then charged with using that information to avoid a loss.  I am also reminded of the story of several members of the American Congress declining security briefings, to avoid being bound up with disclosures that would expose them to criminal charges in the context of them opposing various security measures.

Hauling an shadow cabinet minister into a meeting, dumping information in their lap, and then using the OSA to use that information to attempt to gag that Member is a painfully gross abuse of power.  The fact that I have heard that the PM attempted to prevent my colleague from even discussing the matter with the Leader of the Opposition...that is, the fellow member of the Privy Council who would become Prime Minister in the event of a change in control of the Commons...is nothing short of abusive.  The Prime Minister should be ashamed of herself.  The Prime Minister should be rebuked by this House.

Frankly, the Prime Minister should find another job.  Her conduct has been so far within the bounds of reproach in this case that it shames the House and it shames our democracy.  The idea that the leadership of the loyal opposition should be barred from having the information necessary both to criticize the Government and to potentially take over if those circumstances should arise is contemptible.

I guess, Mr. Speaker, that the only question in my mind is whether the Government will attempt to dredge up and cite some sort of fourth section to the Official Secrets Act which we are not aware of to throw at us.  It would certainly be par for the course this week.

Steven Andrews, MP for Croydon South

34 Policy/18 Media/23 Parliamentary


ReplyQuote
Meredith Hansen-Charles
(@mhc)
Member
Joined: 10 months ago
Posts: 106
19/07/2019 10:17 pm  

Madam Speaker,

I am astounded at the Right Honourable gentleman comments. Never in my years as a Member of Parliament have I seen a member use Parliamentary privilege was a political weapon to hit their opposition with. Never have I seen Parliamentary privilege used to breach National Security in this manner. It casts serious doubts over the competency of the Shadow Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition, who I assume authorised this motion to be presented to the House.

It casts doubts over how a man that hopes to be Foreign Secretary can be trusted to observe the National Security legislation we have in place to ensure that Government policy in these matters, such as military and foreign policy, are protected. This is not to save face for the Government but to ensure we do not jeopardise ongoing operations. If the Shadow Foreign Secretary will so brazenly abandon national security in this one regard, how can he ever be trusted to keep state secrets safe. No foreign government, no ally would trust him and when it comes to international diplomacy trust is everything. He has thrown that trust into the dirt and jumped up and down on it just to give the Government a bloody nose.

It really is a shame, Madam Speaker, a shame that the Conservative party would stoop to such a low level to get their grubby hands a little closer to Government.

The motion laid before us and the remarks by the Shadow Foreign Secretary suggest that all he hopes to achieve is to embarrass the Government, because if he truly wanted to release the information given to him by the Prime Minister he could have stood up in this House as he has done under the protection of Parliamentary privilege and repeated them word for word. But he hasn't. He has hidden behind this motion out of cowardice because he knows that he is only doing this for his own political gain, and this is a shameful course of action to take.

Why did he not seek to move this House into a private session to discuss this motion to avoid further damaging National Security in his political games? Why did he not seek guidance from the Speaker over this issue? Why has he done what he has one - the is only one answer and that is to embarrass the Prime Minister and to do so he has breached the Official Secrets Act in the most brazen way.

If there is one person who should be resigning, it is the Shadow Foreign Secretary for his utter contempt for our National Security and I would advise the Leader of the Opposition to remedy this quickly before the his frontbench decide to breach National Security just to embarrass the Government.

Meredith Hansen-Charles
Cambridge
Secretary of State for Education
Minister for Women and Equalities

"Meredith Hansen-Charles...is a deity" - Kandler/The Times


ReplyQuote
Steven Andrews
(@steven-andrews)
Member
Joined: 7 months ago
Posts: 120
20/07/2019 1:01 am  

Mr. Speaker,
And I must respond to the Member for Cambridge that I, in my time in this House, have never seen the Official Secrets Act so grossly abused.  The Prime Minister used that Act as a cudgel to try and silence the Shadow Foreign Secretary.  That is an outrage to this House and it is worthy of censure.  The Prime Minister also attempted to prevent the Shadow Foreign Secretary from informing the Leader of the Opposition, a fellow member of the Privy Council and the one person on the opposition benches above all who should have the clearest access to information because of the nature of that job.  So not only did the PM attempt to gag the Shadow Foreign Secretary, the PM also attempted to disrupt the normal operations of the Loyal Opposition.  The tactic of attempting to gag the Opposition under the color of sharing information and then invoking the Official Secrets Act threatens not only to harm our democratic process but also to force the Opposition to refuse meetings with their Government counterparts lest they be entrapped.

If anything, the Shadow Foreign Secretary has exercised restraint in what he has disclosed to the House.  He has not compromised intelligence sources and he has not leaked operational details.  All he did was put forward a reasonable claim that the Prime Minister attempted to entrap him so he could be forced not to criticize Government policy.  There is something rather Kafkaesque about this situation; I might also note that this raises the incidental specter that the Government could use an unannounced disclosure in an attempt to gag the Opposition frontbench.  Again, looking over at the US, there are cases where members of Congress are declining briefings for just this reason: Being in possession of certain information means that you can't comment on it, and it can reasonably hamstring your ability to discuss related matters.

Frankly, Mr. Speaker, this demands not only the disclosure of the text of what transpired but an independent investigation into what happened and how to ensure that things like this never happen.  At a bare minimum, we need adjustments to the rules in place so that if the Government is going to disclose information that might bind the Opposition from criticizing it by virtue of having the information in hand, the Opposition can choose not to be so entangled.  The Prime Minister should not be able to shove a poisoned chalice of information into the hands of members of the Opposition frontbench in order to prevent them from criticizing Government policy.

Steven Andrews, MP for Croydon South

34 Policy/18 Media/23 Parliamentary


ReplyQuote
William (Will) Conway
(@will-conway)
MP for Milton Keynes North
Joined: 6 months ago
Posts: 99
20/07/2019 1:12 am  

Hear!  Hear!

Will Conway
Conservative
MP for Milton Keynes North (2014- )
Shadow Secretary of State for Energy,
Environment and Climate Change (2016)

Parliamentary 16
Media 14
Policy 8


ReplyQuote
Sir Geoffrey Birch
(@sir-geoffrey)
MP for Bexhill & Battle
Joined: 10 months ago
Posts: 98
20/07/2019 1:22 am  

Madam Speaker,

 

The Rt Hon Lady for Cambridge and I appear to have heard very different speeches.

 

What I heard was my Rt Hon friend making a most careful speech. He had revealed nothing that relates to the safety and security of our nation. Rather, he has laid out only those elements of his conversation with the Prime Minister that pertain to her efforts to frighten my Rt Hon friend into ceasing to declare his political opinions. I am pleased to see that he is made of sterner stuff, Madam Speaker, but the Prime Minister's actions ought to concern us all.

 

If the Prime Minister had matters of national security to discuss, there is a precedent to follow. She raises those matters with the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition on Privy Council terms. There, they would be bound not by the Official Secrets Act, but by their oath to Her Majesty to keep such matters secret. Instead, the Prime Minister has foregone the accepted path, and instead dispatched her front bench after my Rt Hon friend for blowing the whistle.

 

The Rt Hon Lady, the Member for Cambridge, vilifies my Rt Hon friend for making use of Parliamentary Privilege, then ask why he did not simply recite the transcript under that same Privilege. Putting aside the dissonance of this position, my Rt Hon friend has answered this point: By taking this course, we can ensure that the transcript is redacted of all material that concerns Britain's security or that of our allies, but which reveals the actions of the Prime Minister as alleged by my Rt Hon friend. Transparency, Madam Speaker, but without compromising our national security. I can recall when the Liberal Democrats used to espouse transparency in Government, Madam Speaker. Another principle that goes by the way-side when they scent a sniff of power.

Sir Geoffrey Birch | Conservative Party
MP for Bexhill & Battle (2001-present)
Former MP for Northampton South (1983-1997)
Parliamentary experience: Novice (28)
Media experience: Novice (22)
Policy experience: Unknown (12)

Formerly: Deborah Carpenter, Conservative, MP for Hertford & Stortford, Former Chancellor of the Exchequer


ReplyQuote
Steven Andrews
(@steven-andrews)
Member
Joined: 7 months ago
Posts: 120
20/07/2019 9:22 am  

Mme. Speaker,
If the Member for Cambridge is, in fact, so concerned about the matters before us being made public than why has no member of the Government moved to invoke Standing Order 163?  I know that we don't do anything nearly so theatrical as shout "I spy strangers" anymore but the rule still exists and I believe that if we are truly dealing with matters that are so sensitive then the Government ought to suggest that we sit in private, not that we just don't bring things up.

With that being said, is the Member for Cambridge and Secretary of State for Education, as a member of Her Majesty's Government, stating in that capacity that she thinks that the transcript should be read to the House and that she will have no problem with him doing so?  Is she prepared to back him up if he were to start to do so, or would she immediately turn around and presumably join with her colleagues to try to have him shut down or arrested?  I think we know the answers to these questions, Mme. Speaker: Her remarks are at best disingenuous taunts which this side of the House can see through with ease.  If she has no problem with the remarks being presented to the House then she should join us in voting for this motion, something which will have the same effect without the added high melodrama of will-they-or-won't-they-try-to-arrest-him.  And if we have that transcript, all of the Members of this House can sort out just what happened in that room and whether the use of the Official Secrets Act was proper in total, proper in part, or just a malicious and manipulative move.

Steven Andrews, MP for Croydon South

34 Policy/18 Media/23 Parliamentary


ReplyQuote
Macmillan
(@dylan-macmillan)
MP for North East Bedfordshire
Joined: 10 months ago
Posts: 560
20/07/2019 4:17 pm  

Madame Speaker, I will address the comments and the motion in great detail in a moment but first to the Right Honourable Member for Cambridge Parliamentary Privilege has been utilised many times in the face of unjust attempts to bind individuals. Many of us in this House will remember the great Super Injunction debacle, if my Right Honourable Friend the Member for Bracknell's account is to be believed then this abuse of the powers of the Official Secrets Act would go far above the judicially-implemented doctrine of the super injunction and perhaps even border on Misconduct in Public Office. It is because of the severity of this situation on all sides that it is imperative that all members of this place join with us in demanding the unedited release of the transcript of the meeting to MPs and a national-security redacted account for those who hold us to account.

But now we must move onto the matters at hand, if you'll permit me Madame Speaker I would like to speak first to this motion. What we have here is a classic "he said, she said" situation. The Prime Minister believes fervently that what she has said to my Right Honourable Friend is all above board whilst my Right Honourable Friend is of the opposite opinion, that much is pretty self-evident. What is questionable however is why the Prime Minister refuses to allow the least bit of scrutiny of these transcripts? What is she trying to hide? Why have the Privy Council not been briefed properly? Now the situation has escalated and we have no way of knowing what was said because the Prime Minister has taken it upon herself to conduct government business in secret.

The precedent of this decision is truly shocking Madame Speaker, by attempting to shackle a single member of the Official Opposition with the Official Secrets Act rather than briefing the relevant Privy Councillors properly the Prime Minister has politicised the entire process, including Her Majesty. The Privy Council exists as a council of her advisers, because we have been systematically kept in the dark, shackled, and in this case intimidated by the Prime Minister we cannot adequately advise the Queen in the fulfilment of our duties or in her fulfilment of her's. One of the chief parts of the role of Prime Minister is to avoid the politicisation of the Monarchy, a principle which has been dealt serious damage by these actions. So I ask the Prime Minister will she commit to supporting this motion, or even rendering it redundant, and release the transcript of the meeting to the Privy Council, this House, and in a national security compliant form to the public? Madame Speaker the people of this country have a right to have transparent government, without effective opposition and scrutiny in the press we begin an inevitable march along the road to autocracy that is not only not in this nation's interests but would frankly run counter to the interests of our citizens. We cannot afford to become a nation that does not believe in accountability, transparency, or the rule of law and I hope the Prime Minister does the right thing here.

Now Madame Speaker we move onto the comments made in this debate by my Right Honourable Friend the Shadow Foreign Secretary in which he claims that the Prime Minister made overt attempts to intimidate him into silence citing "severe consequences" should he continue to pursue legitimate avenues of question and debate. Frankly Madame Speaker this is nothing less than a most heinous attempt to intimidate a member of Her Majesty's Opposition into silence and use the Official Secrets Act to cover up after herself. We now know why the Prime Minister refused to properly brief the Privy Council, it's because this has nothing to do with the Privy Council, it was simply her attempting to shut up the Shadow Foreign Secretary. Now until the transcript, which may or may not even exist according to the Express, is properly briefed to the interested parties we will not be able to know what balance there was between intelligence and intimidation but it strikes me that it is in the public interest that we find out exactly what has happened here. With the Prime Minister facing an investigation for Misuse of Public Office, and having potentially ordered that an official meeting go unminuted, we must get to the bottom of this in anyway that we can. The simplest way to do this, in light of the Shadow Foreign Secretary's remarks, the subsequent investigation by the police, and the potential abuse that would be an unminuted meeting would be to prove what happened by releasing the transcript. I look forward to the Prime Minister coming forward on that front to either confirm that the transcript exists by properly briefing it or to fuel suspicions that it does not by refusing to.

Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire
Leader of the Opposition (2014-16)

Prime Minister (2014)

Parliamentary Experience: Novice (25)
Media Experience: Experienced (62)
Policy Experience: Novice (29)


ReplyQuote
Faye Gallacher
(@faye-gallacher)
Member
Joined: 8 months ago
Posts: 247
20/07/2019 6:42 pm  

Madame Speaker,

I rise at this motion not angry, but extremely disappointed. But what disappoints me most is that I'm not remotely surprised the Opposition have continued with this form of politicking.

Madame Speaker, it is not the motion itself that angers me. I do believe and I know that the government will consider what is best in the national interest, complying with constitutional and security conventions, before we comment on the substance of the motion. What I will say is do the Opposition accept their motion as redundant if a transcript does not exist?

But what I do want to discuss in more detail is the Opposition's dangerous tendency to treat national security in a blasé manner, and the many foolish claims that have been made throughout this debate.

First thing is first Madame Speaker, I remain absolutely bemused by the Opposition's misunderstanding of the OSA, claiming it has been 'abused'. It is not something the Prime Minister can invoke and revoke at will - it applies whenever there is a conversation surrounding national security or diplomacy, which includes that conversation. If the Prime Minister reminded the Shadow Foreign Secretary of that doesn't mean she personally invoked the OSA, it means she was being courteous. 

Secondly, Madame Speaker, I would like to address claims from the Gentleman for Bexhill and Battle and the Leader of the Opposition's claims that the Shadow Foreign Secretary did not make a grave misstep because he chose to cut and paste parts of the conversation he personally felt did not affect national security. That is not how it works, Madame Speaker. The Shadow Foreign Secretary does not get to pick and choose what elements of classified information he can make available to the public - if we leave these decisions to be made so casually at the discretion of Opposition members, we set a dangerous precedent.

Finally the Shadow Chancellor's claims are, frankly, bizarre. The government did not move to invoke Standing Order 163 because the government are not psychic Madame Speaker. We knew the Opposition was reckless, but we did not know that they would stoop to this dangerous new low. Without warning, without letting the Prime Minister or any member even know in advance, the Shadow Foreign Secretary cowardly hid behind Parliamentary Privilege to spill classified information. 

He should be asking his own leadership why they did not make moves to invoke Standing Order 163? But the Opposition didn't, because they have a reckless attitude towards national security and because this is a political stunt. They wanted the public to watch. Madame Speaker, the public are watching and I know that they are not impressed. 

The Shadow Foreign Secretary must resign. In Opposition he has made unfounded and egregious claims about Britain's allies, even alienating the United States of America on the way. He has said he would renege on a deal his party - he himself for what we know - had helped negotiate. And now he has taken national security so casually that he wanted to publicise classified information in the hope it would embarrass the government. And his Leader has been with him every step of the way. It shames the Conservative Party I knew which, however much I disagreed with it, stood up for national security and good governance. 

Frankly, Madame Speaker, I do not blame the Prime Minister for not wanting classified information to get into the Opposition's hands because we know that they put polling and party first and country and conviction second. We know they have already done so much damage whilst they've been in Opposition. Madame Speaker, I dread to think of what they'd do if they were in government.

"[we] would rather die than leave the Labour Party." - Emily Thornberry.


ReplyQuote
Kandler
(@kandler)
Member A-team
Joined: 5 months ago
Posts: 98
21/07/2019 8:14 pm  

Madam Speaker,

I fear that members of the government benches have become rather overexcited, and in their excitement have become myopic to the point of functional blindness. The seriousness of the information which my right honourable friend, the member for Bracknell has communicated, has been vastly overstated and even now I see honourable and right honourable members hurriedly briefing the press that the Shadow Foreign Secretary must surely resign. The truth, Mr Speaker, is that both the Prime Minister and the Shadow Foreign Secretary are now subjects of criminal investigations. It is wrong to prejudice those investigations by calling prematurely for the resignation of either party; I am confident that the independent judiciary can manage quite capably without the intervention of members of this place, whose knowledge of the law has been shown to be somewhat lacking.

Madam Speaker, what my right honourable friend has claimed is nothing more or less than that the Prime Minister held a conversation with him, told him that the Official Secrets Act applied to the contents of that conversation, and then threatened non-specific "consequences" if he continued to criticise the provision of British military aid to Pakistan. Madam Speaker, nothing that he has said in this House can be seen to have in any way breached the Official Secrets Act. A matter is not secret simply because the Prime Minister deems it to be so; had she declared the conversation to be subject to the Act and subsequently informed the Shadow Foreign Secretary that she has a predilection for marmalade sandwiches, it would not be a breach of the Act to reveal her gregarious consumption of such produce. It is not a breach of any secret to reveal that two parties met, discussed Pakistan, and that one warned the other of consequences if he persisted with his present line of inquiry. No jury, nor any newspaper proprietor worth their salt, could possibly find a disclosure of these facts to be prejudicial to national security.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary has shown considerable restraint in declining to disclose further details of the now infamous Westminster meeting, and the whole House will I'm sure be in agreement that he was right to do so.

But I am concerned, and gravely, by the way in which this matter has been handled and by the obtuse politicisation of the Official Secrets Act in order to suppress the ability of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition to effectively hold the government to account.

First, it is highly irregular for the Shadow Foreign Secretary alone to receive a briefing on matters pertinent to national security, and to be barred from discussing this briefing further with the Leader of the Opposition or with other Privy Counsellors who have a clear interest in national security and defence matters. Were the information communicated to my right honourable friend genuinely of significance, and genuinely enlightening in the case of Pakistan, it should have been shared on Privy Council terms with other Counsellors, including the Leader of the Opposition, in order that the information shared could be effectively made use of. To brief one Shadow Cabinet minister alone, to appear to threaten him, and to decline to make available to any other shadow minister the information provided to him is grossly negligent and a clear abuse of the powers and responsibilities of public office.

Second, I am extremely perturbed by media reports that no minutes of the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Shadow Foreign Secretary exist. It is a fundamental tenet of information management and accountability within Her Majesty's Government that all official meetings should be minuted by civil servants, recorded and disclosed appropriately within the framework of the guidance that is set out by the Cabinet Office. Particularly if, as the Prime Minister claims, this meeting was held on Privy Council terms, there should certainly be minutes to that effect. The Prime Minister cannot simply hold private meetings on an ad hoc basis with members of the Opposition, decline to make arrangements for those meetings to be minuted according to standard procedure, and attempt to gag the shadow ministers in question by disallowing them to discuss the matters under examination with any other Privy Counsellor. This is a highly irregular state of affairs and again is suggestive of an abuse of powers.

Third, I am dismayed and upset by the overtly defensive rhetoric employed by the government to castigate my right honourable friend as a traitor and as someone who has put national security at risk. I would invite the members opposite to explain to the House exactly why the fact that a meeting occurred, the fact that it concerned Pakistan and the fact that the Shadow Foreign Secretary was told of consequences were he to continue to criticise Pakistan... exactly why those facts, and the revelation of those facts, constitute a breach of national security. I would be deeply interested to know what great confidences, or secrets critical to the safety of our nation and her allies, are put at risk by the sharing of information to the effect that: one, we had a meeting; two, it was about Pakistan; and three, I was asked to stop criticising Pakistan.

There is no case to answer for my right honourable friend in this matter, and I have every confidence that he will be fully exonerated by the ongoing investigation. In any case, he is protected from prosecution by Parliamentary Privilege; but even were that not so, I challenge the government to produce from the ether any decent lawyer who would dare try to argue that the disclosure of such minimal information as has been released constitutes a breach of the Official Secrets Act and/or a breach of Britain's national security.

Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister has sought a private meeting with a shadow minister on Privy Council terms, failed to ensure that that meeting was minuted and attended by officials as is appropriate, and refused to share the information she communicated to the shadow minister - which she claims is of parallel importance to our national security - to other shadow ministers who should also have access to such briefings on Privy Council terms. She has used threatening language to warn vaguely of "consequences" were my right honourable friend to continue to raise legitimate concerns about Pakistan's role in international terrorism, and has orchestrated a massive smear campaign against the Shadow Foreign Secretary from the very moment he set foot in this House. 

Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister has wilfully neglected to perform her duty in informing Privy Counsellors on an equitable basis of matters pertaining to national security, and has wilfully misconducted herself by attempting to use sensitive information as a tool to silence, rather than to inform the Opposition. The Prime Minister has abused the public's trust in her office, and lacks any reasonable excuse or justification for her actions. I therefore accuse the Prime Minister of malfeasance in public office, and serve notice to the House that it is my present intention, pending the results of the ongoing police investigation, to move for impeachment of the Prime Minister in the name of the House of Commons, and all the Commons of the United Kingdom. 

Administrator
Labour Party Adviser
Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence Moderator
Media Supremo


ReplyQuote
Steven Andrews
(@steven-andrews)
Member
Joined: 7 months ago
Posts: 120
22/07/2019 1:08 am  

Madam Speaker,
So, it seems as though there were notes but not a transcript.  I feel a bit perplexed at this, but for the sake of this motion I would be inclined to argue that the notes would be sufficient for our purposes.

I think it is fair to say that the Government has managed to be both technically correct and yet less than candid with the House.  It is a bit like someone who, instead of asking for a ticket on the next train out asks for a train that leaves at 1200 and is told by the ticket agent that there is no such train since the train has been delayed to 1205.  There is a train leaving at about the right time from the station but the agent gives the impression that there is none.

Thus it is with this motion.  The Government gave of the distinct impression that there were no records of the meeting...no train, as it were...when there were in fact records, just not the precise ones asked for...the re-scheduled train.

The assertion that one of my colleagues from across the House has made, that the Prime Minister was "just being courteous", seems to take a willful ignorance of the tone that is strongly implied here.  From what I think we can all tell, the tone was not that of a kind reminder but of Harold Shand inquiring about a late protection payment.  To imply otherwise makes one wonder about my colleagues' ability to understand conversational context.

Fundamentally, the Met have declared that the allegations made by the Shadow Foreign Secretary are correct in form.  I think that should dispose any histrionic demands for resignation...demands that at a bare minimum were premature and at worst are signs of blinkered opportunism.

And for the record, I absolutely blame the Prime Minister for trying to cut the Leader of the Opposition out of the loop.  The fact that members of the Labour Party so desperately do not want him to become Prime Minister does nothing to mitigate his role in our system, to be the leader-in-waiting of a potential next Government.  If they have specific concerns that they can articulate then they should raise them through the proper channels, but the complaints that amount to 'We don't like him' are not grounds for this sort of misbehavior.

Let us be clear again: Members of the Government benches have engaged in almost insane histrionics in reaction to being called on the carpet.  They climbed out on a branch.  And the Met has now cut that branch.

As things stand, I would not blame my party's leadership for refusing to go into a room with the Prime Minister alone, such is the abuse there...if only because the members of the Government will circle the wagons and hurl unfounded abuse across the House even when they have no realistic basis for it.  They apparently won't even try to confirm what did or didn't happen with their colleagues...they just go with a default reaction and dig in.  And that, Mr. Speaker, is for shame.

Steven Andrews, MP for Croydon South

34 Policy/18 Media/23 Parliamentary


ReplyQuote
Page 1 / 2
Share: