PM PC: Official Secrets Act
The Prime Minister spoke to the assembled press on the topic of the Official Secrets Act.
Thank you for joining me today.
Over the past few days you’ve likely heard a great deal about the Official Secrets Act. First, I wish to commend the Metropolitan Police for their thorough investigation and work on this matter. I agree with their findings, despite their critique of my conduct. I will not attempt to tell you that, legally, I was in the right in some of my statements to the Shadow Foreign Secretary. I did, in fact, lose my temper and make a statement that had no backing and could be seen as threatening. For that conduct, I will apologise to the British people. However, I will also provide background as to what occurred in the meeting that you did not hear from the Conservative Party or, and rightly in this case, from the Metropolitan Police.
This began with William Croft’s reckless attempt to undermine the British relationship with Pakistan by labeling them a state sponsor of terrorism. Let me be clear, as our intelligence services and American intelligence services made clear, there is no firm evidence linking Pakistani senior officials to supporting terrorist groups. This is the critical test for state sponsorship of terrorism. Pakistan does not meet this criteria. In an attempt to allow him to make better informed statements, I informed Mr Croft of this fact. As this constituted an intelligence estimate provided by the intelligence services, it constituted an official secret and thus was covered by the Official Secrets Act. Following discussions with the Civil Service and Secret Intelligence Service, this was deemed appropriate for public release.
What transpired next, unfortunately, was bizarre. Mr Croft began saying that, despite reporting by the intelligence services, it was his opinion that Pakistan was a state sponsor of terrorism. He suggested that the intelligence services reporting on Pakistan could not be fully believed and that his access to publicly available testimony qualified as a better source. I was accused of being naive listening to the judgment of British intelligence. When presented with an intelligence estimate, Mr Croft’s attitude was that he knew better than the intelligence services and that he would use that belief to drive policy.
Unfortunately, he continued on in this vain. After saying he didn’t believe the intelligence services reporting, he offered to make a deal. If I agreed to support his anti-terrorism legislation - the bill that the government had to completely rewrite to make it fit for purpose and not a diplomatic catastrophe - he would stop criticising Pakistan. Let me be clear: after being told his actions were damaging our security relationship with Pakistan, Mr Croft said he would stop damaging that relationship if, and only if, we were prepared to back his poorly written legislation. I will not engage in horse trading on diplomatic relations, nor on matters of national security. The fact that one was offering to stop undermining a critical security partnership, not because it was the right thing to do, but in order to get his bill passed is disgraceful.
I will acknowledge my faults. I certainly did lose my temper in dealing with Mr Croft and made statements that were unbecoming of a public servant. However, as a mother, as a Prime Minister preparing to commit British troops to war, I do not regret my work to preserve a relationship with a critical security partner. In Afghanistan, today, NATO forces are fighting terrorist groups and working to ensure the security of our nation. NATO forces are regularly targeted by terrorist attacks. Our security relationship with Pakistan is critical to providing supplies to NATO forces via supply lines that run through Pakistan, as well as disrupting safe havens for terrorists on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border - an action Pakistan has taken increasingly seriously with their activity in Waziristan. That anyone, despite the available intelligence, would seek to disrupt this relationship that is critical for NATO’s operations in order to make a political point is despicable.
There is no greater burden placed on a Prime Minister than ensuring the safety of British forces deployed overseas and ensuring the protection of our great island home. I will do what is necessary to ensure that British, and NATO, forces deployed abroad receive the support that they need to complete their mission. And if that means losing my temper a bit with a man who will try to play politics with national security and getting a bit of bad press as a result, then that’s a price I’m willing to pay.
MP for Hammersmith
Parliamentary: Unknown (13)
Media: Unknown (17)
Policy: Unknown (18)
I mean, this just isn't a good look. You don't bar someone from talking about a meeting with the OSA, criticise them severely for revealing the meeting's contents anyway in Parliament, and then release the minutes of the meeting in full. People kind of wonder what the fuss was about. Nobody scores points here.
Labour Party Adviser
Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence Moderator