Friday, 28 November 2008

Opposition MP arrested by Anti Terrorist Police.

Now just stop and think about the above statement for a moment and ask yourself which country this has happened? Maybe in Zimbabwe where opponents of the Zanu party are routinely arrested? No it happened here in the United Kingdom, MP Damien Green the shadow Immigration Minister was arrested and held for more than nine hours by the Metropolitan Police force on suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office and aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment .


Damien Green MP arrested and held for over 9 hours

Speaking outside the House of Commons, he said: “I was astonished to have spent more than nine hours under arrest for doing my job. I emphatically deny I have done anything wrong. In a democracy, opposition politicians have a duty to hold the Government to account. I was elected to the House of Commons precisely to do that and I certainly intend to continue doing so.”

The police action followed the arrest 10 days ago of a government whistleblower who allegedly leaked four documents to Green, who then passed them to the press. They include a letter from the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to Mr Brown over the economic downturn’s impact on crime. It is understood that the Home Office and Whitehall were alarmed at this disclosure because it was circulated among so few people. Other damaging stories include a list, prepared by Labour whips, of MPs’ likely voting intentions on legislation to extend to 42 days’ detention without charge, internal memoes suggesting that Jacqui Smith was involved in covering up the licensing of illegal immigrants as security guards in Whitehall, and a Border and Immigration Agency memo which revealed an illegal immigrant was able to work at the House of Commons using false id.

Speaking on BBC One's Question Time, shadow chancellor George Osborne said: "I think it's absolutely extraordinary that the police have taken that decision. "It has long been the case in our democracy that MPs have received information from civil servants - I think to hide information from the public is wrong. It is early days, it's an extraordinary case. I think there are going to be some very, very big questions asked of the police."

A spokesman for the Conservative Party said Mr Green had "on a number of occasions, legitimately revealed information which the Home Office chose not to make public. "Disclosure of this information was manifestly in the public interest.
"Mr Green denies any wrongdoing and stands by his actions."
Conservative sources said a police investigation into a high-ranking politician would have to have been cleared at "the very top" and have described the actions as "Stalinesque". Conservative sources said that Mr Cameron supported Mr Green fully and was confident that he had not paid for the documents. The arrest is certain to start a political row over who in government knew about or sanctioned action against a Tory frontbencher.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister insisted that Gordon Brown had “no prior knowledge” of the arrest. The Metropolitan Police denied any ministerial involvement in the decision to arrest Mr Green. “The investigation into the alleged leak of confidential government material followed the receipt by the Metropolitan Police Service of a complaint from the Cabinet Office. The decision to make today’s arrest was taken solely by the Metropolitan Police Service without any ministerial knowledge or approval.”

Cameron and the London mayor, Boris Johnson, were informed that Green would be arrested. Johnson reportedly asked Sir Paul Stephenson, the acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan police, whether he was sure that he needed to arrest Green, who could have been questioned, and voiced "grave" concerns, warning him that he did not regard it as "common sense policing".

Former shadow home secretary David Davis insisted the action was "somewhere between an astonishing error in judgment through to judicial intimidation". Mr Davis, who quit the Tory front bench to campaign against the Government's erosion of civil liberties, said Mr Green had only been "doing his job". He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "None of this put in any way national intelligence, national security, or international relations at risk - yet we end up with a situation that is in some way reminiscent of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, with an opposition spokesman being arrested for nine hours. "It is extraordinary, frankly." Mr Davis said he found it "hard to believe" that ministers were not told that Mr Green was about to be arrested. "I cannot believe it," Mr Davis said. "Why were they not told?"

The Lib Dems said Mr Green's arrest was a "worrying development" with serious implications for the balance of power between the government and parliament. "Receiving information from government departments in the public interest and publicising it is a key part of any MP's role," said Chris Huhne, the party's home affairs spokesman. "It seems that either the law needs to be changed or the police have overstepped the mark."

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