The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

  • LORD IAN WARWICK BLAIR (sworn).

  • Lord Blair, first of all, your full name, please?

  • Thank you. You provided the Inquiry with a statement dated 9 February of this year. You've signed and dated it and there's a statement of truth in the standard form. Is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry?

  • It is, subject to an amendment because a small passage from it was omitted.

  • And that has now been supplied. It's a quotation from my book.

  • A quotation from your book, and I think one exhibit number was wrong.

  • It's a very minor point, so we won't --

  • I don't think that will worry us. Lord Blair, thank you very much indeed for the statement and the obvious effort you've made in preparing it.

  • Lord Blair, in terms of your career, you joined the Metropolitan Police after leaving Oxford University in 1974. You worked your way up the ranks, as it were. You joined the HMIC for a period in the mid-1990s, then you became in due course Chief Constable of Surrey. You returned to the MPS in 2000 as the Deputy Commissioner and then between February 2005 and 1 December 2008 you were the Commissioner, is that broadly speaking right?

  • Then you were made a life peer in 2010; is that right?

  • Your introductory remarks. First of all, the difference between the provincial police forces and the MPS, in a nutshell, how would you characterise that difference or those differences?

  • Well, accepting for a moment that the larger police forces outside London have a significant press response, the two police forces in which I served before I came back to London, at Thames Valley and Surrey, had, to my memory, three press offices in Thames Valley and two in Surrey. Returning to the Met, I don't know what the number was then, but I know the number now is about 60 or 70. It is just a fundamentally different environment in which to work.

  • There are obvious reasons for that. Can I ask you about paragraph 9, when you refer towards the bottom of that paragraph -- this is our page 02750 -- to a cabinet style of management. This is in reference to the management board, and you tell us what comprises the management board, and we've heard about that from others. Does it follow from that that there might be a tendency for large personalities, large egos, perhaps, to brief against one another?

  • I'm sure that might be the case, but before we go to that point, I think there is a legitimate responsibility on people with commands of many, many thousands of staff dealing with many issues of national importance to have a connection with the press in the current environment in which we operate. I certainly have no difficulty with senior people at this level, who often had been chief constables before in their own right, having that relationship.

    Is it possible that some of them moved beyond what I might have considered acceptable? Well, you'll see from my statement and my book that I think that was the case, but it certainly wasn't the case for all of them.

  • Thank you. In paragraph 10, you explain your interactions with politicians, including, of course, the Prime Minister, and how frequent those were, inevitable in your position.

    Can I ask you about paragraph 12, that in your view, policing was largely seen as an apolitical subject until the early 1990s, and then you chart the change, or reference the change to a comment Mr Blair made in 1993, that the Labour Party would be "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime". So what has been the impact of that?

  • Well, if I go back a little before it, to show the difference, in the very early 1990s, there was a scandal at Birmingham Children's Hospital about an excessive number of neonatal deaths because there weren't enough nurses, and the Health Secretary, who at the time was Edwina Currie, had an extremely difficult time on the floor of the House of Commons.

    A little while later, the West Midlands Police by accident shot dead a toddler, and in answer to a question in the House of Commons, the then Home Secretary, Mr Whitelaw, said that this was an operational matter for the Chief Constable. This is a very different position than what might be seen now.

    The police authorities with which I served in both Thames Valley and Surrey had a view that they left politics at the door, that policing was somehow a different position than a party -- not a subject for party political activity. In fact, the big change to police authorities occurred out of a scandal in Derbyshire in the 1980s, involving the leader of the council, called Bookbinder, and it was quite clear that for political purposes he was starving the police of funds. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary appeared and for the first time in the 20th century declared a police force inefficient, and that led to new legislation to put independent members onto police authorities and so on.

    So, in my view, the early 1990s, the comment by Mr Blair, and then a very fierce battle began between, in the first incidence, Mr Blair and Mr Howard, on crime as a party political issue, and I think that changed the atmosphere completely.

  • Not just for the police, of course, but I think probably for criminal justice generally.

  • I think that's right, sir.

  • You make clear, Lord Blair, and this is the second bullet point in paragraph 14, when you talk about the various sides of a triangle -- indeed, I borrowed from that gratefully in my opening submissions -- you make clear, however, that the police is not part of the Whitehall machine.

  • For obvious reasons, that you are not politicians.

  • No, absolutely. When I was referring to the Whitehall machine, I was also referring to senior civil servants. So, for instance, to my understanding, the head of the security services will turn up from time to time at the Wednesday meeting of permanent secretaries, but you'd never see the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police walking in there. And I think this change that I refer to in this bullet point, that the days of the crime correspondents have started to go and they've become home affairs correspondents, and seeing the police as part of the nexus of political debate and political activity, I mean, it's probably true to reflect that the coverage of both the resignation of myself and of Sir Paul Stephenson were covered by political correspondents, not crime correspondents.

  • The third point you make in paragraph 14 is that you comment on "the very poor behaviour of some parts of the press towards victims of crime and celebrities", as revealed in module one of this Inquiry. That's parallelled in the way some police officers have been treated by the press. You refer to yourself, Mr Quick, who of course we're going to hear from today, and then Mr Westwood, over the Soham affair?

  • Page 136 of your book describes some of your experiences. I think we have that now as an annex to your statement.

  • I'm not quite sure of the number we have for it on our system, but of course I've been working from your book. Because we could put it up on the screen, if only I knew the number.

  • While you sort that out, let me ask a slightly different question: is there a way of putting this genie back in the bottle or not?

  • I have to say I don't know how the political genie can go back in the bottle, because in a sense, as always, the UK reflects the experiences of the United States, and my sense is -- and I again refer to it somewhere in my book -- about the way in which crime became a dominant issue in United States politics, and they, of course, have much less distinction between the operational independence of the police and the way police chiefs, for instance, are appointed and dismissed, and that's one of the issues that I've raised on a number of occasions in the Lords and elsewhere, about the new elected police commissioners. That is a directly borrowed concept from the United States. So I think we'll have some difficulty.

    If one looks at the coverage of crime in the newspapers, it is enormous, and politicians are going to take note of that. I mean, quite often politicians report that crime and anti-social behaviour is the main issue on the doorstep during elections, and to some degree I'm afraid we are where we are. I wish we weren't.

  • The same is so for criminal justice generally?

  • Yes, I reflect I have multiple interests in the particular topic.

    Right, you've found what you wanted so I've not wasted any time?

  • Yes, 10608. May I pick it up in your book at the bottom of page 135. This isn't available on the screen. You refer to a piece in the Daily Mail on 14 October 2004, when you were described as "Labour's favourite cop". You were Britain's most politically correct officer, Oxford educated, but no relation to the Prime Minister. So they were setting the tone fairly early on in relation to you.

    You say, however:

    "It went on to mention [this is the Daily Mail] that I'd been outspoken about the canteen culture of the police service, that I wanted to be more caring and gentle to ethnic minority and homosexual officers, that I was a reformer with close links to New Labour, and indeed that I'd shaved off my beard in order to become Commissioner."

    And you say:

    "That was the pattern for the next four years. Innumerable articles in an array of newspapers sought to shape my image, refining this early portrait of an intellectual, upper class, diversity obsessed, unscrupulously ambitious Labour fellow traveller."

    There was another piece in the Mail, June 2005, when they misquoted your evidence to an employment tribunal?

  • And then the bit that we have on the screen:

    "This is the norm for public life, but it's dispiriting. Some time early in 2008, I think, I was sitting at a meeting of an Olympic steering group chaired by Mr Livingstone and Tessa Jowell. A major consultancy was reporting to the group that its work showed that there was an 80 per cent probability that the London Olympics would be delivered within the budget available. It had been promised that the results of this work would be made public and this should have been an unremarkable but good story. For nearly half an hour the politicians and officials present tried to decide how to deal with the presentation of the announcement convinced that the media would report the findings as indicating that there was now a 20 per cent chance that the budget would be insufficient. A very positive press release was eventually constructed but the story ran exactly as predicted."

    So the bad news rather than the good news.

  • "It is very notable that, when individuals holding such positions talk together, the press is the subject of their most bitter complaint. This is not normally because they want to suppress information but for two reasons: first, the amount of time involved in handling the press has risen exponentially, and second, it is so cumulatively depressing that the journalists and editors almost invariably look for the worst slant that can be put upon the story."

    And then you say that is exhausting and arguably has resonance with evidence that Alastair Campbell gave, as it happens, on 1 December.

  • But then it feeds itself, doesn't it? Because if the story is not being told squarely, then you have to spend more time correcting the way in which the story is being put, and so it becomes an ever-expanding cycle, and less work gets done.

  • I think that's right, and I think -- I'm sure Mr Jay will bring me to this point later, but my belief was, when I became Commissioner, that we were already, as senior staff, spending too much time worrying about what the press were going to say next. So I wanted to move away from that. As I say in my statement, my impression is that when Paul Condon was at the end of his commissionership with the Lawrence Inquiry, the Met closed down slightly, under real press criticism, and John Stevens came in and decided to open it up again, and I think this is a kind of process that commissioners go through. I think Sir Paul Stephenson gave the opposite one when he came in. But my determination was that we should spend less time on press matters than I thought we were spending under my predecessor.

  • Thank you. Your approach to media relations, this begins at paragraph 15 of your statement. You give us some history of what was a corrupt relationship, really, in times gone by, with crime correspondents having relationships with detectives. You describe it as a pretty unpleasant mixture. Is that something which really has died with the times, in your view?

  • Yes, I think so, on this level, and this is me merely repeating what old journalists have told me, and it's probably a bit similar as the people who would have been hanging about the Old Bailey at the same time. There was a culture of discussion between detectives and journalists and I imagine, if I may say so, sir, probably with some members of your profession and journalists in times gone by, which was a culture of pretty heavy drinking and not necessarily that much accuracy.

    But I am referring to a long time ago, as to when all this began.

  • Yes. To take it closer to the present, in paragraph 18, you've already really covered this, Lord Blair, the position under Lord Condon and the Lawrence report and the police becoming defensive with the press, Lord Stevens arriving and changing the approach to try to improve NSY's "battered reputation", and then you say:

    "There was nothing improper in that but my personal opinion, on succeeding him, was that the senior parts of the MPS needed to be less concerned with the media. Discussion of media positions and opinions had been too consuming of senior officers' time."

    Well, is that a general observation or are you referring to any particular senior officers there?

  • No, I'm referring to what was the Met's management board. John Stevens' approach was to have, as I did, and took from him, a three mornings a week informal meeting of the most senior officers early on a Monday, a Wednesday and a Friday, and he had that in his office, and I wanted to make it more formal and so I took it out into a conference room, and I suppose I quite deliberately wanted to have less discussion about the press and more discussion about the policy.

    But we are talking fairly nuanced here. It's not a major turn. It's just, in a sense, you get a better discussion around a table, a slightly more formal discussion around a table, than you get sitting on armchairs and a sofa. That's just my opinion.

  • This was touching the tiller --

  • -- not turning on a sixpence?

  • Absolutely. Exactly, sir.

  • Is it implicit in the sentence at the end of paragraph 18 that arguably Lord Stevens had got too close to the press, or are you not suggesting that?

  • No, I'm not suggesting that. I'm suggesting nothing of the sort. I merely felt there was too much discussion about the press rather than about the facts, as it were.

  • It was also part of Lord Stevens' approach, as you say here, to improve New Scotland Yard's battered reputation to try and present the positive aspects -- I'm sure there are many -- of police work. Was that also your philosophy or did you feel that the message to the press had to be imparted in a slightly different way?

  • I think it was a combination of both. I mean, one did try very hard to get the positive information out, but it is -- it is a very hard thing to do, getting the heroics and the dedication of some of the staff in front of the press in a way they find interesting, because they don't normally find that interesting, I'm afraid; they find interesting that which is critical, and that seems to be the general pattern.

  • Yes. There's also an issue here as to how the message is going to be got across to the press. You've spoken about meetings in conference rooms rather than private offices, and we're going to come to this. Fewer social interactions with the press than Lord Stevens, is that fair?

  • I think that's fair. I mean, John obviously has given you his account, and my particular issue is that I did not -- and as far as I can see from -- and we'll go through this, I have no doubt -- I didn't have any dinners at all with editors or journalists, with the exception of one friend who was a friend before I became -- well before I became Commissioner, which was entirely social. Because I see a working lunch is one thing, because you go back to work after it, whereas dinners are a different matter.

  • Thank you. Paragraph 20, you deal with the choreography of your first day as Commissioner, because amongst other things this is press interviews and television appearances, which presumably you were advised to do by the DPA; is that right?

  • Yes. I think the change of Commissioner is an important aspect for London. I mean, one of the issues that has to be got across is -- from my point of view and I'm sure from my predecessors' and successors' -- is: this service is here to protect Londoners and you have to tell Londoners what you do and one of the ways you do that is to tell them who this new chap is. I think that's quite a natural thing to do.

  • I've been asked by one core participant to explore with you the last sentence of paragraph 20, that's you being shadowed by a Guardian journalist. Did this experience teach you anything about working closely with the press?

  • I thought it was a good idea, again, to be open and try and get some in-depth coverage of what the nature of the job was. I don't think it was a terribly successful experiment, because in the end my first six months included -- I think it was the first 12 months, rather than six months. I may have made a mistake there. "Some months", I say. It was 12, I think. It included such dramatic events that in the end the journalist, the gentleman, was more interested in the dramatic events than he would be necessarily in the sort of general day-to-day workings of this office holder, which is what I'd had in mind.

  • Thank you. In paragraph 21 you deal with your pattern of meetings with the press, meeting with the CRA once a month, one-to-one interviews with journalists. Well, those presumably would always find their way into either the print or the broadcast media; is that correct?

  • Usually, usually. Sometimes they didn't think there was anything interesting enough in them, so they probably spiked that one for later, but usually.

  • Can I move on to meetings with editors and editorial teams "... sometimes over lunch at NSY and occasionally over lunch in their offices. I probably did something like this once a quarter."

    Did you have any impression that meetings with particular sections of the press were favoured, or did you have the contrary impression, that whoever was organising these meetings were intent on ensuring that no section of the press would be favoured?

  • I think the spread of the meetings that are recorded indicate that it was pretty much across the board. I think it's been pointed out to me in the last 24 hours that two newspapers are missing, which are the Express and the Star.

  • But they would have been represented at the CRA and had they wished to see me then I have no doubt we would have arranged to do so.

  • Someone has done an analysis of all your meetings, and one can see that if one takes your first year, 2005, there are 12 meetings with the CRA -- these are the monthly meetings. The Independent is two meetings, News of the World three, Times and Sunday Times seven, the Sun seven, Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph five, Daily Mail four, Observer and Guardian taken together nine, Evening Standard three. So the Mirror I think is not there at all, and likewise, as you said, Northern & Shell publications. Although at that point the Evening Standard was part of the Northern & Shell group, I think.

  • I think I'm right in saying that -- no, it was part of Associated at that point.

  • I would suggest that is a reasonably even spread and one is looking for the papers obviously with the most impact.

  • Sorry, the Evening Standard was part of Associated in 2005, and then sold off, I think, in 2008/2009.

    The general objectives, paragraph 22, I read out in fact in my opening submissions, so we can move on to paragraph 23.

  • Well, let's just expand that a little bit. "Provide information to the public", obviously in relation to the bombings, but also the work generally. So that's proactive to try and reassure the public that you are dealing with what is happening?

  • Yes. I mean, if we take my time in office, obviously the bombings and the terrorist threat was the most important aspect of the role, but there was also at different times a rise in knife crime or there would be the introduction of the neighbourhood policing approach, Safer Neighbourhoods, those sorts of things we would be doing. It's a kind of a combination, it's not just proactive because obviously one is reacting to events, but it is proactive about what you're going to do about them.

  • But that really combines with your third bullet point, doesn't it:

    "To make the MPS more understandable and understood..."

    It's all part of the transparency objective?

  • I think that's entirely correct, sir.

  • And the other two: to react where something had obviously gone wrong and you had to explain it and, if necessary, apologise, and then finally, to contribute to the debate.

  • Yes. And if I say that -- just to raise that last point, I actually believe and still do believe that the most senior police officers do have a role in public life to contribute. I used to say that if there was going to be a discussion about bird flu, the public is entitled to hear from the Chief Veterinary Officer. If it's a discussion about terrorism, one of the voices has to be from those charged with investigating this kind of crime. And I know that was something that some politicians found uncomfortable, that they thought that was not a job for the police and that we should remain some kind of silent service. Well, I don't agree with that.

  • But under what heading would you put getting the public onside to help the -- one might call it the fight against crime, but to assist in the administration of justice?

  • Well, I think it's covered, sir, in -- really, in bullet point one.

  • "To provide information to the public". Because as far as I'm concerned, and I'm sure many of my predecessors and successors, unless we have a compact and contract with the public, we're not going to get the witnesses in the first place. You can't police with consent unless that consent is informed.

  • This was part and parcel of the first bullet point, providing, for example, background briefings to the press about the severity of the terrorist threats, some of which might have been, indeed, off the record, so that the press could have a more informed view, which would be part of the basis of their specific stories.

  • I think, as Peter Clarke certainly has said to this Inquiry, one of the difficulties we faced on the counter-terrorism matters was that this fell upon, if I might put it this way, a slightly unprepared criminal justice system for trials of this magnitude and there were also -- many of them were connected to one another, so there was a long period in which arrests had been made, the communities were deeply disturbed, and even though trials had finished and people had been sentenced, nobody could speak about it in public.

    And we needed, in my opinion and that of many others, to do something which I know this Inquiry has some concerns about, but there are times in which the only way you can do this is an off-the-record conversation, because otherwise there is no way of giving that information to a journalist, because if you are to be quoted, you would be interrupting the process of a fair trial.

    So I mean there is a place for it, but it is one that needs to be tightly controlled.

  • So by "off the record" in that sentence, you mean what, Lord Blair? That you're expecting whatever you say to be published, but not attributed to you?

  • No, I don't think I am. I am expecting them to write articles, if they are writing articles, that show at least some understanding of the circumstances in which the police and security services in those instances were operating, not directly to be quoted. I have always been rather reluctant to have this phrase "a police source", because what does it mean, but I am looking with, you know, the more detailed and industrious journalists for them to have a whole picture, which they cannot get without a whole briefing.

    I noticed Peter Clarke referred to the time when, at John Stevens' direction, he went round and briefed the editors. I think that was a perfectly proper thing to do.

  • In terms of what the media were seeking to do, paragraph 23, probably self-explanatory, but did you have a sense ever that they were seeking to get material out of you which might have been inappropriate?

  • Yes, is the answer, because that's -- when I say inappropriate, from my point of view, not theirs. I mean, a journalist is always looking for a scoop, and that's why I personally would not have meetings with journalists normally without a press officer being present.

  • Paragraph 23. You deal here with your taking of meals with journalists. The scrutiny of the gifts and hospitality register and your diary demonstrate very little. There's a lunch with Les Hinton on 18 September 2006. Do you remember anything about that?

  • I don't, I'm afraid. I accept that it's in the diary.

  • And then the lunch at Cecconi's in Mayfair, which you do mention, that was on 6 June 2007. Those present were Mr Myler, Mr Wallis, Mr Kuttner and Mr Fedorcio?

  • Again, can you remember anything about what was discussed?

  • Yes, I'm obviously reaching into memory, but I think this was a lunch which was talking to these individuals about the forthcoming report on Stockwell 2, as it was known. This was the inquiry not into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, but into who said what to whom, who knew what, et cetera, and I was very concerned, as I say in the book, that the Independent Police Complaints Commission had taken two years to produce a report which in my view could have been done in a far shorter time. I mean weeks, rather than months and years. And I was pretty clear that it was going to be a pretty torrid time when it came out, and I didn't see it with less -- I think I had four hours to read it before I had to respond to it, and I knew that it was going to be difficult and I decided it was time to talk to somebody about what my side of the story was.

    That's the best of my recollection.

  • So you were briefing them in advance --

  • -- so that the press might be more favourable, but was that the only occasion when that --

  • That's the only occasion that I can remember where there seemed to be a rather large number of editors and journalists in a restaurant like that, which is a pretty expensive place.

  • Although, presumably, the News of the World paid for that?

  • But that's only with the News of the World?

  • You didn't then do the same with --

  • No. I don't really quite know why Dick thought this was such a good idea for this particular group, but of course News of the World still covered -- you know, it had at that stage the largest circulation in the country, so I mean there's an important point in that direction.

  • It might be said that you weren't going to choose the Daily Mail, because, after all, they were hostile to you. Is that a fair point?

  • I don't think that would have been a terribly successful or even very pleasant lunch.

  • I understand.

    We need to cover this issue so that it's clear: your interactions with Rebekah Wade. Can you recall those, Lord Blair?

  • I'm told that there were three, which is a phone call in 2005, a meeting in 2006, a lunch in 2007. I can actually recall, now I'm looking at this, the fourth one, which is I think reported on page 190 of my book, about when I went to make a speech at a media event and found Rebekah there, she having written a fairly hostile headline about me on that morning.

  • "Blair is doomed"?

  • And your wife took it quite well:

    "Great headline, Rebekah."

  • That's right. As I remember, that was the only time I ever saw Rebekah speechless.

  • Page 3 of your book. This relates to your son, who was staying with you in London. This was coincident with the July bombings in 2005.

  • The reason he was there was he was doing work experience with the Sun newspaper and then you say this:

    "His editor, Rebekah Wade, my wife and I had grown to know."

    What's your comment on that statement?

  • I mean, I had met Rebekah on a number of occasions, usually through John Stevens or with John Stevens. I'd met her, obviously, when I became Commissioner, and I have to say when I realised this might be subject to discussion here, I checked back with my wife. It's interesting that one checks every fact in a book, except possibly asking your wife whether that line is true. She only met her twice and the second time was the "great headline" and the first time was at one of John Stevens' leaving events.

  • Neil Wallis you met twice. The one occasion we've already seen in 2007, that was Cecconi's, and another meeting in 2005, is that correct?

  • And Les Hinton, only the one occasion we've seen, 18 September 2006?

  • Finally the picture as regards meetings with the press, I have covered 2005, but it would be fair to say that in future years there were fewer meetings. Again, the spread seems to be generally across the board, although in 2006 to 2008, the Daily Mail you don't have any meetings with?

  • It's the same position with Northern and Star papers, not there at all. Do you happen to know why that was the case, Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, Sunday Star?

  • I mean, I don't want to make fresh enemies, but I think there was a slight sense that if they wanted to talk to me, they could, and at no stage was any advice given to me that it would be particularly important.

  • Thank you. Paragraph 26, you say:

    "This level of social ..." I think that should say "contact" rather than "conduct".

  • "... did mean that I got to know some journalists and editors."

    I've been asked to enquire of you this: who in particular?

  • I suppose I -- I mean, I would have known the editor of the Guardian reasonably well, I would have known the editor of the -- a couple of editors at the Times reasonably well. One particular one, Will Lewis, was the son-in-law of somebody I knew. I would obviously have known Rebekah Wade, as she then was -- or Brooks as she then was. I think it would be fair to say that -- and I'd have known Veronica Wadley, the editor of the Evening Standard. You would know these people. I knew them better than I would know anybody from the broadcast media. It's a slightly different relationship, although I should say that Mark Thomson is a reasonably close neighbour, and therefore a friend.

  • Paragraph 27 of your statement has already been leaked, of course, but we should cover it nonetheless.

  • I'm sure not, Lord Blair. We can be 100 per cent sure that it wasn't you.

    You're dealing here, to give the context, you've given thought to whether there were any occasions when contact with journalists and particularly News International staff went beyond that which was strictly necessary for professional purposes, and you're volunteering here two incidents which might be said to fall in this category and the first one is the horse incident. It's a retired horse lent to a member of the public on the basis they would care for the animal, et cetera, and obviously bear all the expenses, and you understand that some time during your Commissionership Rebekah Brooks made such a request and arrangements were made for her to take care of a retired MPS horse.

    "Although I am now aware and indeed was aware before I left the MPS that this had happened, I have no recollection of being asked to give my authority ..."

    How did you become aware of that?

  • Well, when I wrote this, I had absolutely no idea. It was in the ether that there had been something about a horse. It was not until I first began to prepare for this event that somebody raised the horse in legal discussions. I now know, but only in the last 24 hours, that somebody who will appear in front of you, who is Dick Fedorcio, the head of press, has given an account of how I knew. I don't know whether it's correct for me to give that here, because I don't recollect it, but he does. Is that right for me to say what he's going to say?

  • Well, if you think it adds or resolves this debate, by all means. I'm not keen to spend overly long on this particular incident.

  • So if you think that it actually helps to provide the context and you don't dispute it, I'm very content that you speak about it.

  • Okay. What I understand Mr Fedorcio will say is that he was telephoned by Rebekah Brooks asking about this arrangement, that she had heard that this arrangement existed, and that then he arranged for her to go down and see the inspector in charge of horses and then have a discussion about it and this actually seems to have happened on the day that I had lunch with her, and what I understand Mr Fedorcio is going to say is that this was discussed at the lunch. I have absolutely no recollection of that.

  • Could you help me with this, please: is this a big deal?

  • I mean, how many horses --

  • The Met has about 100 horses, of which I assume a regular proportion are released, and this is a regular event, because the horse is still well but it is not strong enough to do the work that it's required to do, and the Met, I presume, quite understandably, doesn't want to put them down. So I think this is quite regular.

    In terms of does this help your Inquiry, sir, I don't think it does.

  • Then the other matter you volunteer, which we've touched on, is your son doing work experience at the Sun newspaper. I suppose the obvious question is: why was it the Sun newspaper?

  • Because that was what -- I must have been talking about the fact that my son needed to find something, he was about 15 at the time, to do work experience for as part of his education, and I think Mr Fedorcio mentioned that Paul Condon's son had done work experience at the Sun, so I said, "Oh, well, that's the kind of thing that would excite most 15-year-olds, so I think that should be a good idea". That's all I thought about it. Obviously I thought a lot more about it when the bombs went of and he was somewhere on public transport around London, which I recount in the book.

    But I will say, as I say in the statement, that the current debate over internships was not playing at that time. I had a whole series of young people interning around my office and getting to know the Met and all those sorts of things. It was a perfectly normal process.

  • In paragraph 30, when you're addressing the relevant policies on gifts and hospitality, you rightly point out there's nothing in the policies to differentiate between hospitality from the media and hospitality from other organisations. Do you feel that there should be something in the policies which differentiates between the two?

  • No, I don't. And I think we will come to that later in my statement, about the fact that I'm -- I think I'm probably where Paul Condon was yesterday with trying to have a broad view of the kind of values of the organisation that should exist, rather than the detail around very specific elements of media policy. But we'll come to that.

  • Can I just test it to this extent: if you're talking about other organisations, the only risk, and it is only a risk, might be financial corruption. We're talking about the media, there is a risk of financial corruption, we know about Operation Elveden, but there's also the risk of these more sort of subtle exchanges, quid pro quos, which perhaps should be addressed more specifically in policies. Would you agree with that?

  • I really am not sure I would. I think that a standard of behaviour is expected from senior public servants, which should run across the board in that way. I mean, as I say in this particular instance, in the subject matter of this Inquiry there is this triangular relationship and the relationship with the politicians is equally important, and I wouldn't want to have a set of regulations around one that was different from the other. It is about a standard of behaviour, a standard of professionalism, and behaving decently.

  • Is it your feeling that if you make this too complex, and too sort of subdivided into categories, you're almost killing the golden goose?

  • Rather you should keep to more general principles and standards of behaviour? Is that what you're saying?

  • I suppose it's part of my background. The Metropolitan Police used to have an enormous book called "General orders", long since extinct, but it was a description of all the things you shouldn't do. It was all the disasters that had happened over the years and how you shouldn't do any of them, and I don't think anybody took any notice because it was too complex, much to complex. It was only a sort of post facto issue that this was the particular part of the discipline code you'd breached. I'm much more into an aspiration for people to behave well and to be challenged if they don't behave well.

  • Thank you. Paragraph 33 now, Lord Blair. You're dealing with the change in policy and you say:

    "However, during my time (particularly when I became Commissioner) I do recall that we had a problem with some senior officers commenting on matters which were not their policy responsibility."

    So is this right: are we talking about officers at management board level primarily?

  • And their commenting on these matters which weren't within their policy responsibility presumably in your view was inappropriate?

  • Are you able to identify or would you wish to identify, perhaps, today, who those officers were or would you prefer not to?

  • Perhaps it would be easier to identify the subject matter which I think led to this.

  • Which was clearly the -- one of the most difficult issues that the Police Service was dealing with at that time was the issue of extended detention for terrorist suspects. We had lengthy discussions at management board about what should be the Met's position on that. We discussed that with ACPO, we agreed a position. I expected my senior colleagues to accept that position. I mean, after argument, that is the cabinet message. You argue your case and then you agree that the general consensus is this, and you stay with that cabinet responsibility, and I was very perturbed when one of my management board members, quite some time later, then expressed a completely different view and so did somebody immediately below that level, and that's why that was changed.

  • It may be relevant to evidence we're going to hear later today, but what was cabinet view, management board view, as to the matter of extended detention for terrorist suspects? I think it had been 28 days at the relevant time?

  • I think what I would prefer to do, rather than get into the detail of 28, 42, 90 and so on, is to take you again to part of my book where we were discussing with the Prime Minister, at a regular meeting of the cabinet, bits of the cabinet, with the police and the security services, about counter-terrorism, and it was the day after the Prime Minister had lost the vote over 90 days, and the issue was, as I say in my statement, that we were facing a level of terrorist threat which we had never seen before, and that we believed that we were trying to deal with this with some relatively outdated legislation, and one of our concerns was that because -- and I think Peter Clarke said this the other day -- because the level of threat, the level of threat and atrocity was so appalloing, we had to move in faster than we would have liked.

    The classic position on this is the operation in relation to the airliners plot. Had seven or eight airliners blown up over the Atlantic -- I mean, this was Britain's 9/11, to say the least -- but we got ourselves into a place where we had to go and arrest a lot of people much earlier than we wanted to because we couldn't dare to let it run any further, and that left us with a position of trying to sort the wheat from the chaff, having to deal with languages, having to deal with encrypted computers, and we just believed after lengthy discussion that what was necessary was a series of seven-day rolling detention periods and there had to be some maximum of that before it became internment without trial.

    That was the discussion that we had and we backed the ACPO position, which I think at that stage was to say the maximum had to be 90 days, and that was where I expected my colleagues either to agree with or to remain silent.

  • Otherwise you just have the police debate in the public.

  • Yes, which would be, in my view, unfortunate.

  • You explain that the SOP was changed on 4 June 2008. We needn't turn it up, but it's tab A7 of the master bundle. One can see the change writ large. As you explain towards the end of paragraph 33, you wanted officers to "feel confident that they were entitled to talk to the media on the record", in other words, within their area of responsibility. You know that other Commissioners felt the same. "I think our joint concern was about anonymous briefings off the record."

    So are you covering there in particular senior officers speaking outside the area of responsibility, in effect briefing against the cabinet position?

  • Paragraph 35, you deal with the issue of people leaving the MPS and then working for the press and vice versa. You say you've never written for a News International paper. We know about your --

  • I say not for payment.

  • We know about your book. Was that serialised in any newspapers or not?

  • Yes, it was interestingly serialised in the Mail on Sunday.

  • Maybe against type there.

    Then you express an opinion, which I've been asked to test with you. You say four lines into the next page, which is 02762:

    "It is my view that a restriction period of two years would be appropriate for all staff ..."

    So is this covering the situation of police officers going to work in the media, there should be a two-year restriction period preventing them doing that?

  • I think it is part of the oddity that we were referring to earlier on as to how separate the way the Police Service has developed has been, that there is no restriction on people leaving to go into any part of public life, in the sense that another worry would be people leaving with a great deal of information about, let's say, information technology and communications, and then going to work for one of the firms involved in bidding for work back into the organisation, and I think there is a role here for the Police Service to be treated the same as the sort of Ministerial code of conduct and the Civil Service code of conduct, about not being so restrictive that nobody can work again, but having a reasonable period, and I'm throwing two years in as a possibility.

  • It's particularly relevant to the police, isn't it, because your terms of service are such that officers can retire very, very much earlier than those coming out of different work in the public sector?

  • I think that's right, although I would say in the defence of the police --

  • I wasn't criticising it --

  • No, no, sir, I wasn't suggesting you were, it's just the defence of the police is only that the way the pensions have rather oddly been constructed makes it a financial almost imperative to leave, as you are worth less money as the years roll by, so that's one of the reasons that sits behind this, which I know Mr Windsor is considering in his approach to police pay and conditions.

  • But does your restriction cross all ranks and all sectors or --

  • I don't think so. I mean I think we're talking here about senior staff who have access to the most sensitive and detailed information. I mean, I haven't thought through how far down that goes, I would want to see what the other codes were in other parts of life, and I certainly wouldn't want to see it being, in a sense, much more restrictive on the police than anybody else, because I think that would be wrong, too.

  • So that's police officers going into other businesses. Obviously likely to be linked with security issues, because that's their expertise.

  • But not to do something that might in any sense compete with or allow the use of contacts to develop opportunities. Is that the position?

  • I'm not suggesting that officers would necessarily do that, but it's a question of how it's seen by the public, and we have seen, I think, in other fields very senior people leaving various ministries and ending up working for defence contractors or whatever, and I think the public is rightly concerned by that.

  • Can I just test with you what you go on to say in this sentence. You say:

    "... I would accept that, because the media staff within DPA come from media organisations, they ought to be able to return to other media organisations without restriction, other than of course the Official Secrets Act."

    So you're creating an exception here. Is this right: you have two classes of person, you have someone in the police who has never worked for the media before, there should be a two-year restriction for them, but someone within the DPA who may have worked within the media before, there shouldn't be any restriction in relation to that?

  • It just seemed to me I couldn't imagine how you could put a restriction on someone recruited from the Daily Mirror, because that's how it works, who then couldn't go back to the Sunday Times. That is his or her profession. I think there's a slight difference. Again I'm not trying to make policy on the hoof, I just think there is a discussion to have about whether --

  • That raises the next level of question, namely from whom you should be recruiting for your DPA, given the likelihood of enormous links that might work backwards into the news organisations, into press organisations.

  • It does raise that question, sir, but it's a question that would have to be faced directly, because if they don't have experience of the media, how good are they going to be to you as press officers? And I think that would be pretty difficult.

  • What does the government do?

  • I think the government -- actually the answer is I do not know.

  • So your exception for the DPA is really a pragmatic exception, it's not based on principle; is that right?

  • No, I think it's also about -- I think that could be termed a restriction of trade pretty quickly.

  • The two high-profile cases you mention in paragraph 37 are of course Lord Stevens and Mr Hayman?

  • The section on politicians, there's probably a little we need to bring out here, although would it be fair to say that, quite properly, politicians were lobbying you or seeking to influence you to take particular courses of action?

  • I think that is fair. It is quite proper, because if a politician has come into office having run an electoral campaign to do something, then they're entitled to ask the public service to do that. Where it becomes more difficult is if they're asking that something is removed from something else and put over there, that is then a much broader discussion.

    What is not proper is what's in the following paragraph, which is a direct intervention in individual cases, individual decisions to open, close, et cetera, is not normally proper, although I mean it can be, as I explain in the paragraph.

  • I think we understand that, Lord Blair.

    The issue of leaks really picks up on evidence you've already given, but paragraph 43 you say:

    "[You] did feel that there were an increasing number of leaks to the media, particularly in my time as Commissioner."

    These are the leaks you are referring to from within management board and the level just below, is that clear?

  • You say:

    "On no occasion did I ever suspect that any of my senior colleagues were passing on information to journalists for money ..."

    You're dealing with your state of mind then. Is it still your view that none of your senior colleagues were passing on information for money?

  • That certainly is my view.

  • You're differentiating there between senior colleagues and those at lower levels in the hierarchy who may be the subject of interest to Operation Elveden; is that correct?

  • Yes. I mean, before making this statement, I took the precaution of asking in the broadest possible terms with Operation Elveden as to whether my suggestion that I was not likely to see a large number of arrests of colleagues and that those that were arrested were likely to be of junior rank, and that is the assurance I have been given as of a few weeks ago.

    I find it inconceivable that senior colleagues would be taking money directly in this day and age. I just don't think that is possible.

  • When you refer to an increasing number of leaks, are you intending to convey that it was very few people amongst your senior colleagues who were perpetrating those leaks, but in their case there is was a large number, or are you saying that it was quite a few people --

  • No, I think I'm saying it was a very few people.

  • You explore their motivation, their indiscretion, as you put it:

    "... a desire to advance their own views in the public mind ..."

    Well, this covers the issue of briefing against the cabinet position.

  • But then you say:

    "... or to improve their own public profile."

    That may be something different.

  • I think so. We are, in these series of paragraphs -- I am, in these series of paragraphs, dealing with the whole reason why I believe some colleagues became too involved with the media, and I mention, I think, the phrase in another paragraph about a siren song.

    I just think people became slightly less clear than they should have been about what their professional duty was as opposed to spending time, frankly, gossiping.

  • We may come back to that point at the end of your evidence. You explain --

  • So gossiping may be accidental leaks, just --

  • I'm actually using the term -- I think there were too many meetings with journalists which were unrecorded and unnecessary.

  • One witness who we're going to hear from today speaks of meetings between journalists and senior officers, and he in fact names them, in a wine bar close to New Scotland Yard. Is that something you knew about?

  • I certainly know about the occasional wine bar close to Scotland Yard. I'm not sure I should mention that.

  • That's fair enough. The difficulties in conducting leak inquiries, of course, are well-known, but I've been asked to put to you this questions in relation to the final sentence of paragraph 44, where you say:

    "The only proper way to deal with such inquiries is through the examination of telephone records, a highly intrusive process for conduct which is disciplinary rather than criminal."

    Two points there, Lord Blair. The first is that the leak may, in certain circumstances, be criminal. Would you accept that?

  • But even if it's only disciplinary, of course it is highly intrusive, but if one is looking at the telephone billing records in relation to a mobile phone which is paid for by the Metropolitan Police, why is that inappropriate?

  • Under certain circumstances it is appropriate, and I think when we come to the case of Mr Hayman, he was caught up in a proper criminal inquiry into leaks arising from the case in Birmingham of the alleged -- well, not alleged, proven -- conspiracy to kidnap a Muslim soldier and then behead him and post the beheading on the Internet, and the story broke in the media extremely early, I mean so early that there was an inquiry into how could that possibly have got there. That inquiry was conducted, telephone records were examined. And so, yes, there are circumstances under which that is entirely appropriate.

    I'm not suggesting in that answer that Mr Hayman was found to have done anything improper about that inquiry, but his telephone records were examined and gave me the cause for concern that I report in my book.

  • Page 239, Lord Blair:

    "A high volume of traffic on his telephone to telephone numbers identified to be those of journalists."

  • That's correct, although I gather he did explain that he still retained a post in relation to ACPO's media advisory chair. I'm not sure I find that sufficient in this case.

  • The journalists, presumably, were identified by name, were they?

  • Do you remember who they were?

  • I think it would be wrong now to try and recapture an event five years ago or six years ago. I mean, I can remember one or two names, but it would be wrong, I think, to say that.

  • Given the general way in which we're conducting this Inquiry, I don't think it's appropriate to go down the --

  • Tempting though it is, I won't pursue that further.

    You deal in paragraph 45 with the statistics in relation to leak investigations, and I think that evidence speaks to itself --

  • Yes, of course.

  • -- Mr Jay, I should just mention that I was reminded by Peter Clarke's evidence that there was one of these which was conducted under the Official Secrets Act, which actually related to -- which ended -- which I haven't mentioned in here, which I mentioned ended in full-scale conviction and imprisonment, and I think he gave evidence of that to you earlier on, so I think that's another angle, but that was a very unusual case, I have to say.

  • I've been asked to clarify it with you what "local resolutions" means in the penultimate line of paragraph 45.

  • A local resolution is probably being called in -- I think the phrase is "for a discussion without coffee".

  • Yes. Thank you.

    Bribery by the media, you've covered that. The individuals will be of relatively low rank. I suppose you would say this is common sense, really, that financial enticements would be greater to those perhaps not being paid as much as senior officers, or are you making a different point?

  • Well, I think what you've said there is true, but I think there are two other points. The second is that when we did an analysis some years ago of what the nature of corruption problem being faced by the Met was, it was reasonably clear that we had broken network corruption of networks of officers, but the individuals were still out there, and one of the trades was information, and information -- sitting in front of computers and so on is more likely to be somebody of a lower rank and quite often not a police officer, but a police employee.

    But I think also, most importantly of all is that senior officers have been through a long process of training and of inculcation of organisational values and I would be very concerned if I was seeing that senior officers were amenable to corruption in the same way as somebody else, somebody more junior. We would have failed.

  • Paragraph 49, you say that financial corruption doesn't lie at the heart of the problem:

    "I believe that where that problem may have become significant is that a very small number of relatively senior officers increasingly became too close to journalists, not I believe for financial gain but for the enhancement of their reputation and for the sheer enjoyment of being in a position to share and divulge confidences."

    So this, is this right, Lord Blair, links back to paragraph 43, to the media leaks by senior colleagues, and it goes back to paragraph 33, which is people travelling outside the area of --

  • -- their cabinet responsibility, as it were. Is this the constant theme?

  • I think it is, and I think what I'm trying to describe here, am describing here, is police officers behaving in a relatively human way. I mean, this is -- it's natural, in a sense, to -- otherwise gossip would not exist in the world -- for people to talk about their colleagues and all the other things that people talk about in office politics and so on, and what I'm saying here is that some people, in my view, are likely to have made the mistake of moving outside the world of office gossip to have that discussion with journalists in some instances.

    I make the reference to politicians because I have heard politicians saying awful things about other politicians in front of me, somebody who isn't a politician. So it seems to be a natural human habit, but we ought to stop it.

  • The context is important, too, the geographical context, because if this is a social occasion over alcohol, then the sort of phenomenon you're describing is more likely to occur?

  • That's self-evident.

    Do you believe that this overcosiness or over-great proximity, contributed in any way towards a reluctance to pursue media crime?

  • I don't think so. I have never come across anything that suggested that. I am aware of a corruption allegation that we pursued against a senior journalist. It didn't come to anything, but there was no hesitation in employing relatively sophisticated criminal investigative techniques against a reasonably prominent journalist where we thought he was passing information in an improper way. So, no, I don't think that's the case.

  • The phone hacking issue is yet to be discussed, Lord Blair. I'll be coming to that fairly soon.

    But paragraph 52, the directorate of public affairs:

    "... the DPA acted almost without exception as a gatekeeper for media being given access to me."

    You're suggesting there that journalists didn't have access to you via your personal mobile phone, so the DPA had to be the gatekeeper, because that was appropriate; is that basically what you --

  • Absolutely the case, yes. I mean, not even the journalists who were shadowing me had my mobile telephone number.

  • Can I ask you to deal with the issue of the director of the DPA being a member of the management board? Does it follow from that that he -- for a large number of years, of course, it was Mr Fedorcio -- would have been present at all these cabinet discussions, "cabinet" in inverted commas?

  • Unless he was on leave, yes.

  • So he had access to all the workings and deliberations of the management board by definition; is that right?

  • I've been asked to put to you this: why was that appropriate?

  • I suppose -- this is an interesting question. It had been thus for a very long time, going Commissioner after Commissioner after Commissioner backwards, that the head of the directorate had been a member of whatever the group was called, it was at one stage being called by various names, but the senior leadership group.

    While, as I said in answer to earlier questions, I had been slightly concerned to not spend so much time on the press, it was still an important aspect, and he of course was not only in charge of press but he was also in charge of internal communications, and one of the things I haven't said, which I would like to put in, is that one of the reasons that any Commissioner is going to want to talk to the press is in order to talk to his or her own staff, who themselves are sophisticated consumers of the media. So the Evening Standard and other papers were a very important aspect of communicating to the 53,000 people who worked in the Met who, by some strange coincidence, didn't believe everything they read in the Force's official newspaper.

  • Do you mind if I ask you this blunt question: did you ever suspect that Mr Fedorcio was the source of leaks?

  • I don't think it would be fair to say that. At the time. I am concerned by the evidence that Mr Paddick gave about his conversations with Mr Hyder to you earlier on about Dick briefing against me, so I obviously have to reflect on that. I mean, I am somebody who pretty much wishes to trust the people around me, because otherwise you just cannot operate. I think those are questions you'll have to put to Mr Fedorcio.

  • In paragraph 55, where you say --

  • I'm sorry, just before you go on to that, you throw out the line that the 53,000 members of staff don't necessarily believe what they read in the Force newspaper, but if it's the same people who are providing this information, I mean -- I would be rather disturbed about that, but maybe I shouldn't be.

  • Sorry, I'm probably being a little light-humoured here. I think it would be fair to say that most of the internal communications, newspapers, produced by any company or business are designed to throw the best light on that business. The Job, as it's called, the internal Met newspaper, has lots and lots of pictures of police officers doing wonderful things and getting medals and all the rest of it. I think people will see that for what it is, which is a set of good pieces of information being provided to the people of the organisation, but they'll also want to contextualise that and triangulate it from outside. I'm not suggesting there's any lies in there, sir.

  • No, no, no, I wasn't suggesting you were. It's really nothing to do with me, I'm just following your evidence, but actually communicating how you cope with the bad news, if you see your staff as the best ambassadors for the Met that there are, may be a good idea. I mean, I appreciate --

  • No, I kept The Job when lots of people said we should get rid of it. I said no, that's part of the picture too, part of the tapestry. One of things I also introduced, because technology had got to that point, was my own broadcasts to staff, so I would do maybe most months a sort of conversation from the Commissioner about how I saw things. I mean, we're all trying to get as much information in to the staff so that they can be, as you put it, the best ambassadors.

  • That's what I was saying. But things like the Evening Standard, it's also important that my staff are reading those on the tube and hearing at least something about the Met from a slightly objective angle.

  • All right. I'm sorry, Mr Jay.

  • Paragraph 55, Lord Blair, the journalists attempting to cultivate direct telephone contacts with some officers and "some officers foolishly allowed that on an extensive scale". These presumably are the same senior officers who you are referring to throughout your statement; is that correct?

  • I'm going to move now to the Goodman and Mulcaire matter. May that be an appropriate moment for a short break?

  • Yes. We'll just have a few minutes to give the shorthand writer a break. Thank you.

  • (A short break)

  • Lord Blair, the senior officers you were mentioning, we've identified Mr Hayman, we haven't identified anybody else. Are you referring to anybody who is still a serving officer in the Metropolitan Police?

  • I think that's as far as I can take it.

    Prosecution of Goodman/Mulcaire, the section beginning page 02770, paragraph 57. You gave evidence to the Select Committee about this, I'm not going to take you to that evidence, but you give the background in paragraph 58, which we've heard very clearly from Mr Clarke, namely the ongoing terrorist threat which was extremely serious at this time.

    Can I ask you about paragraph 59. You say you were "told, at different times, that there had been a breach of the security of one or more of the Royal Princes' telephones". First of all, do you remember being told that before the arrest of Goodman/Mulcaire, which was 8 August 2006?

  • Yes, I think it was before the arrests. I think the fact that the inquiry was under way -- and if I -- and I have used here the phrase, if I may correct it, of "one or more of the Royal Princes' telephones". As I understand it now, having looked at it more, it's an aide to the Royal Princes, I think that's the position, but I was aware there was a breach of security in the royal household.

  • I think there was some evidence to the Select Committee which Mr Williams gave, that it may have encompassed their telephones as well.

  • My sense is I do not know that.

  • But I mean that's a detail. Certainly the primary targets were the two or three aides, as you put it. So you believe you were told that before the arrests?

  • I believe that I was told, as I look back at it, that I would have been told that an investigation was under way.

  • As you explain at the end of paragraph 58, the only reason you were told that was because it was the royal princes, otherwise this would not have entered your radar at all; is that right?

  • I don't imagine that it would have done.

  • Can I ask you, please, about the substance of what you were told. Was the basic modus operandi explained to you, namely: you hacked into voicemails by getting PIN numbers, a bit of blagging en route?

  • I don't think in the early stages -- and I really am here recollecting as best I can because my recollection has been overlaid by so many reiterations of this story -- but I think at the beginning it really wasn't clear how it had been done.

    One of the things I remember being struck by at the time was that this was an offence of which nobody had ever really heard. It wasn't a direct interception of an ongoing, two-way telephone call, which was illegal under lots of provisions; this was something different, and I don't think people were very clear as to (a) how it was done, and then, as you're aware, there was a discussion about whether it was an offence at all.

  • Well, it was clearly always an offence. It was a question of how many offences, because there was a Computer Misuse Act offence.

  • Yes, I think at the beginning there were even discussions about were we clear this was a criminal offence, but if other people know that that didn't happen, then I won't push that forward.

  • Were the potential security implications of this explained to you, particularly in the context of the cabinet ministers' voicemail being hacked into?

  • I don't recollect that, but I will come to the conversation with Mr Blunkett in a minute, but perhaps that's a slightly later period.

  • Yes. Were you given any sense, particularly after 8 August, of how prevalent or widespread, rather, this activity had been?

  • Were you given any sense of although this was quite a sophisticated technique, it was likely to be a technique which others -- that's to say other than Mr Mulcaire -- might have been practising?

  • It's a difficult question, because I'm putting to you a counterfactual, but had you been briefed as to the probable extent of this, both in terms of numbers of victims and numbers of people who were perpetrating this, would your reaction have been different? And if so, what would you have done, if anything?

  • Yes, I think it would, and I just want to turn now to this point, because I think it's very important. In evidence to you and in conversations with me at different stages, I am clear that Peter Clarke took a totally reasonable decision within his own boundaries of responsibility. He took a reasonable decision that he did not have the resources in the light of everything else that specialist operations were dealing with to take this case further. It was unnecessary to take this case further in terms of a criminal conviction.

    I also took note of his comments to this Inquiry that he had already begged and borrowed officers not only from all over the rest of the Met, but all over south east England to deal with what he was dealing with, and therefore the decision was taken to close down.

    My position would be this: it would have been possible for him to take a different decision. I see the reasonableness of his decision, but it would have been possible to make a different decision, which would have been to escalate it up to those parts of the organisation who could take a different decision, and had that happened, and had there been an explanation through Andy Hayman or Peter Clarke to either the Deputy Commissioner, probably in the first instance, or myself, then I think we might have taken a decision to say, "Okay, we can't deal with this at the moment, but we will hand it over, now it no longer concerns the royals, to potentially the specialist crime directorate for a scoping study in due course." That is a possible set of decisions that could have been made.

    Of course, it's equally possible that I could have taken the same decision as Peter. It's equally possible that, had we done so, and then turned up at the News of the World, we'd have had a bit of a row with them and we wouldn't have got very much co-operation. Whether what has now been uncovered would have been uncovered is another matter altogether, but I do think there is an issue here that I as the Commissioner at the time feel we could have done things slightly differently, but I would emphasise that I can understand where Peter was coming from at that point.

  • I think I made that abundantly clear when he gave evidence --

  • -- that the extent of the terrorist threat at the time provided a demand upon his resources which it was inevitable he had to satisfy, and decisions that might have been taken slightly differently in a different time were entirely justifiable, and I think I said that to him and I'm happy to repeat it to you.

    Of course, one of the problems is the higher up the organisation you get, the less you know.

  • And the concern that I have expressed is around the extent of the information that actually was considered by those who were making decisions, in particular -- I mean, I notice you mention that you found out in late 2006 that -- no, late on in your Commissionership, after 2006, you were told that your numbers were in the Mulcaire file.

  • Now, I won't put words in your mouth. What was your reaction to being told that when you were told it?

  • Well, it's interesting to think of what -- I'm going to rephrase it and put it that my reaction to it if I'd been told at the time would have been real concern, and then secondly I might have asked more about what else do we know? When it was all over and it had, you know, vanished into the distance, it -- you know, I had no evidence that I had ever been hacked, I had no evidence that anything that I had said on a telephone or been said to me or whatever had appeared in some different source, so I suppose I just put it down to experience and --

  • -- you know, that is a question that I can't fathom in this sense, other than to say -- this is an odd comment to make -- here is a memoir about years in office, and phone hacking isn't mentioned.

  • But did you ask the question, "Well, hang on, if me ..."

  • That's precisely what I didn't do.

  • I am saying that that is the first sort of indication that perhaps there was a wider group than I had thought. I think I just literally said, "Oh, really?" and -- because we were dealing with all sorts of horrors at the time, so I just suppose I sort of thought, well, the two people have been arrested, that's it then. I had no comment further to make.

  • You see, that's the issue for me.

  • And it's relevant for me because, of course, it has been suggested: oh, well, this is because there's a relationship and therefore ...

  • Now I will have to deal with that and I will deal with it, but what I'm trying to get to grips with is how it actually happened, because it certainly seems that some of the people whose names are on the list -- we have heard about those contained within witness protection -- are disturbing, to say the very least.

  • I am agreeing with you, sir. I merely am reporting how it happened and when it happened in relation to myself and at that stage I didn't ask the question which now looks so obvious, as to how many other people there were.

  • You said, dealing with the hypothetical question I put to you: in due course this might have been considered and bequeathed to a different directorate and you mentioned the serious crime directorate. Over what timescale might this have taken place? Because you're suggesting that it wouldn't have happened immediately.

  • At the period of August through to January/February of that year, I don't think it would have been considered. Not on what I knew or what maybe my deputy knew or something like that -- had he known, I'm not saying he did, but we have cold case reviews, we understand that we can go back to investigations. It could have been taken out and parked.

    I just do want to get across that I am not -- as you have done, sir -- we're not blaming Peter for this. I am merely saying another course of action could have been taken, and perhaps at that stage the information would have come out about there being lots more names and indications of a lot more people involved and then things would have been very different.

  • But is this right, Lord Blair, that the decision to review the matter or to open up the inquiry would probably have had to have been taken either at Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner level?

  • It would have been -- to transfer it to another directorate would have -- if that directorate had objected, which it might well have done at that stage, that would have had to have been decided by the Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner, that's what they're for, but normally it would have been a matter of people just agreeing, "Yes, I can see that, I know you're not going to be able to take it, but I can take it a bit later on."

  • So the first discussion, hypothetically, would have been between Assistant Commissioner Hayman and the relevant Assistant Commissioner in charge of the directorate?

  • I would have -- yes. We are talking entirely hypothetically, but that's what I would imagine.

  • If that hadn't yielded fruit because the other Assistant Commissioner didn't want to take the bequest, up it would have gone to the Deputy Commissioner?

  • Yes, that could have happened.

  • I see. Can you remember -- I appreciate this is difficult -- what Assistant Commissioner Hayman told you, if anything, about the number of victims and the --

  • No. I think the important point to recognise at this stage in August 2006 is any conversation with either Andy Hayman or Peter Clarke -- and I did have many -- would have been absolutely dominated by the airliners plot. I mean, we had, as I will talk about in a minute in relation to Mr Blunkett, we had closed Heathrow airport in the middle of the holiday season, we knew the gravity of the threat, there was enormous public unease. We had huge pressures on the investigators, we had woods in High Wycombe being dug up all over the place and it really was the only show in town.

    Therefore any conversation about this would have been way back on the agenda and relatively short, particularly because the matter was being successfully dealt with and closed down, and that was how it was -- I understood it to be.

  • Do you recall being briefed about the guilty pleas in November 2006?

  • Yes, just to the extent they pleaded guilty and they'll be sentenced in January.

  • And at that stage were you told the matter has now been closed down? Were you told that?

  • Not in so many terms, but I certainly understood the matter to be over.

  • I think shortly after 8 August there was a telephone conversation between you and Mr Blunkett, he being out of the country at the material time; is that correct?

  • That is correct. I was slightly surprised to read this in the Guardian, and I had no recollection of this, so I thought it was correct to phone Mr Blunkett this week and ask him for his recollection, and again it fits very closely what I've just said to you, which was the conversation was about the airliners plot. The reason for the conversation, as I recollect, although I haven't confirmed this directly with him, is that we were coming under such newspaper attack about Heathrow airport that I rather liked the idea of an ex-Home Secretary, who was already writing for newspapers, saying, "Actually, it might be reasonable in these circumstances".

    But before -- what I must have done is before I rang him, I must have asked a question of somebody about whether there was any evidence of Mr Blunkett being hacked, and the reason that I would have done that -- and again we are now moving into the real trying to reconstruct a conversation five years later -- is that I knew him through all the problems that he had with relationships and losing his cabinet post and then losing it again and so on, and he had the most enormous sensitivity about his personal security, including telephone security. So I think I would have asked to say, "Is Mr Blunkett's name anywhere in this before I ring him?" and I obviously got the answer no, and as I understand it, that is still the answer, that his phone is not on that list. So that's what I told him.

  • Although the phone numbers of those, as it were, around him --

  • I only discovered that now. I didn't know then, at the time.

  • I mean, the very fact, Lord Blair, that you were asking the question "Is there any evidence that Mr Blunkett's phone has been hacked into?" suggests that it was in your mind that these activities went beyond the royal household. Is that fair?

  • I don't know that it is fair. It was in my mind that he would ask me because I knew how concerned he was and had been all along about where allegations about his private life were coming from in the newspapers. I mean, yours is a perfectly proper suggestion to make to me, I just don't have that information in my head.

  • It's always easy looking back with hindsight to speak about what appears obvious, but if it was clearly in your mind this was tightly bound around the Royal Family, then you wouldn't even have begun to ask the question, "Could it have been wider?"

  • Except -- if it had been another politician of some sort who had never had the kind of things that Mr Blunkett had passed through, I probably wouldn't have asked the question, but I did know about what he'd been through and I knew he was wildly concerned about his personal privacy, so I knew I was going to get asked. I think that's how I reconstruct it, and if I'm wrong, it is not out of malice or ill will, it is just the way I think it happened.

  • Thank you. Are there any other observations you would wish to make about these matters? You've given us your opinion, really, as to what you might have done confronted with different evidence, emphasising what you might have done, but is there anything else you would wish to share with us about phone hacking?

  • Of course, to be clear, by the time we move forward to 9 July 2009, you were gone?

  • Help me with that, could you, from your experience as Commissioner? A detailed, complex article in the Guardian, not three paragraphs, not just a few sentences, but something of substance. What's your view about the very speedy reaction of which we heard?

  • It is invidious to criticise from the outside, but I will say that not so much about the article in July 2009, but in September 2009 I was in New York when the New York Times article was written, which was extremely lengthy --

  • The following year, I think.

  • Is it the following year? In that case, I will withdraw that. But as I remember reading that, I thought, "This has to be investigated", it was so wide.

    So going back to the 2009 article, which obviously I --

  • I appreciate it's invidious, but let me make it abundantly clear. I am going to have to consider this. I want to be able to consider it with the benefit of the experience of those who have held very high rank in the Police Service in exactly the same way that I want to consider what the press are doing with the benefit of those who have experience in those fields. So I'm sorry to put you on the spot --

  • No, no, in a sense I hadn't finished the paragraph.

  • I was starting with that point. It wasn't a refusal.

    The answer is, in John Yates' expression, it was an extremely -- it was a poor decision, that's what he says. From what I can see, that decision was just too quick. It was just why have -- why could you not have gone back with all those allegations and looked further into what was -- what did the material actually say?

    I think there is a point at which sometimes very senior people have to go and have a look at what -- I don't mean they have to delve into every black bag, but bring me something direct here, and I think -- I don't quite understand why John took that decision with the speed that he did.

  • Could I ask you if you would comment on one further decision which puzzles me: that having made the decision and given a press conference, the following days were then spent gathering documents which some may say could only have been required to justify the decision that had been made, because if it was an open review, then why on earth make the announcement?

  • I'm sorry, at this stage you pass my sort of knowledge about it.

  • I don't know what happened in the following days.

  • But I am clear, and I'm quite prepared to say it, that was a decision which appears to be too hasty, and I thought some of the way in which Sir Paul Stephenson suggested the closed mindset of because it had been Peter Clarke who had made the decision and he was so respected, it was a very interesting piece of what you can describe sometimes as group think.

  • That everybody thought the same way.

  • Of course, you have to understand precisely why Mr Clarke made the decision that he made.

  • Because if that was, as I think I might have put it to him, something of a no-brainer, given the other problems, then it doesn't unpick what actually was going on.

  • No. And nor does it justify a decision two years further on when the same situation was not apparent.

  • Thank you. May I move on to a different topic and deal with it shortly? I've been asked to put to you a point arising out of paragraph 64 of your statement, 02774. These are the reports coming out of the office of the Information Commissioner, which weren't brought to your attention at the time. Do you feel that they should have been?

  • Yes, I think I do. I rephrase that: I do think I should have been aware of them, because they were revealing a trading in information which appeared to involve police officers. I have no idea why they didn't appear.

    Apart from a general sense that, you know, yes, there was a Information Commissioner, and were his reports important -- I mean, it's a sort of -- this isn't a central part of policing, so I don't really know anything about it, but somebody, I think, might have jogged my arm a bit.

  • One appreciates that journalism wasn't at the epicentre of those reports, they were concerning other institutions, other organisations, who were unlawfully trading in this information, but journalists were certainly there and they featured quite heavily in the second report. Do you feel that part of the reason why this may not have been drawn to your attention was that there was a general defensiveness about taking on journalists in the Metropolitan Police?

  • I don't think that's the case, but I mean we haven't yet discussed this. There is no question that we were aware -- and I use "we" loosely as the senior officers of the Met along with the rest of the establishment -- that newspapers were very difficult animals with which to come to grapple, so whether it was News International or Associated Press, these were people with very powerful alliances, so to that degree I don't think there's a reason behind me not seeing these documents, but at the same time the whole law is written to make it difficult for the police to investigate journalists. That's why you have to have special procedure warrants and all the rest of it.

    So I think there is an element of they were very powerful agents in the state, and they were very difficult to deal with, but I don't think had we had -- if I can put it this way: had I had and those that I knew around me had direct evidence of unlawful behaviour by journalists we would have stopped, because we wouldn't.

  • Let us accept for the purposes of debate that that last statement would be perfectly true in relation to you and your thinking. Would it be equally true in relation to all your assistant commissioners, do you think?

  • The problem here is to analyse from the outside the motivations of individuals. I have nothing to suggest that any individual took a decision based on an overestimate of the importance of the influence of any organisation. The problem is that the levels of contact within people from that organisation were so frequent that the defence of it didn't matter, it is very difficult to maintain. So I just don't know.

    Do I believe that John Yates took that decision in order to placate News International? No, I don't. I just don't believe he did that. But his difficulty, without making it more difficult for him, is the number of contacts, and that, I think, is a problem.

  • I might come back to that point at the very end of your evidence. The HMIC report -- we've probably covered this already, Lord Blair -- the overcomplication issue, paragraph 65. Is there anything further you would want to add, which you've already said?

  • Just the bottom of paragraph 67, Mr Jay. I do think Elizabeth Filkin's comment that "contact is permissible but not unconditional" should be nailed to the front door of the police station, as it were. That's a really good phrase. What I disagree with is then a whole series of injunctions and subclauses about how you should deal with the press rather than anybody else. And paragraph 68, I do not believe HMIC is equipped to deal with this issue. That's not what it does.

  • Yes, I see what you mean.

  • We've heard what its resources are. It's not something it can undertake.

  • No. I think the final sentence is the important point: it has to be the responsibility of chief officers and the new police and crime commissioners to get this right.

  • Lord Blair, some final questions. Did you follow the evidence of Mr Paddick given last week?

  • So we're absolutely clear, your position in relation to Mr Paddick is absolutely pellucidly set out in your book:

    "Love to hatred turned."

    I think that's Shakespeare, isn't it, page 237?

  • It is indeed. No, it's not actually Shakespeare, when I think about it. It's "No greater fury than love to hatred turned". It's a poem.

  • You studied English literature at Oxford, I'm afraid I did not, as is becoming apparent.

  • Well, you started it, Mr Jay, so he's stuck with it.

  • I read law, which is much less interesting, and here I am standing up now, but it gives the context to Mr Paddick.

  • Is there any general comment you want to make about his evidence?

  • Only that I disagree with some bits of it. Some of it was accurate, but it is just to say that, you know, I think Brian was a very fine officer, but for a variety of reasons, his last period with the Met was very unhappy, and that unhappiness has clouded his commentary a great deal.

  • He implies -- well, possibly doesn't explicitly state -- that you were responsible for the suppression of his report into reporting of rape, I think in about 2005. Is that right or not?

  • No. And I think it would be fair to say that, as I've said on a number of occasions outside this Inquiry, that the proudest achievement of my entire career was the entire reconstruction of rape investigation in the Met in the 1980s and, no, I do not take that -- Brian's position.

  • He denies that he was responsible for any leaks. Do you want to comment on that or not?

  • Well, again I won't comment any further than in the book. I was satisfied, so were my management board colleagues, that the leak in question was his responsibility. He has denied it ever since, but to the extent that any leak can be satisfied with a very small group of people, we were so satisfied and we moved him accordingly.

  • This general question has been asked of others, more specifically Lord Condon and Lord Stevens yesterday, and I ask it of you: do you have any comment to make on some of last week's evidence? I think you know the evidence I'm referring to. If you want me to be more precise, I will.

  • I think you might be a little more precise.

  • In particular, the evidence of Mr Hayman and Mr Yates. Your reaction to it, whether it -- well, I won't lead you.

  • If you're referring to the level of contact with the media, then yes, I have concerns about that and I particularly have concerns, if it's true, and I believe it is, in front of the Inquiry that there were a large number of dinners and large amounts of alcohol, and that would worry me.

  • Is this in terms of the perception and what the public would think about it, or do the concerns go any deeper?

  • Well, I think it's twofold. One is the perception not only of the public but of the more junior officers, who must look at this and wonder whether this is a proper use of public time and public money. And secondly, the very perception that the Inquiry has already said in terms of Lord Leveson and yourself, that it is very difficult not to put these two situations together in terms of the failure to investigate and the levels of contact, and not see a reference between them.

    As I have said, I don't believe that John Yates took that decision on that basis, but the difficulty is in terms of public perception that that is an influence that it is possible to draw. As I said, I don't believe it to be true, but I can see no defence against its existence.

  • Well, it raises the question that I think I asked Lord Stevens yesterday, that of course if one has had a professional relationship with somebody, the mere fact you've met them can't mean that you shouldn't be responsible for investigating them.

  • But if you are concerned about senior management in organisation and a particular senior manager is a personal friend, does that create a problem?

  • Yes, I think it does. I think it's at that point one has to consider whether somebody else should make the decision. I mean, as an example, and it was a term of art only lawyers would know, I discovered the word "recuse", and I commented on that in relation to cash for honours, that I recused myself from the decision-making process because I was meeting the people involved on a very regular basis in the shape of the Prime Minister and other senior ministers. It's a very difficult place if you were trying to make decisions.

  • So you recused yourself where your relationship with these ministers was entirely professional?

  • Even more so, therefore, if they'd been beyond the professional, but the friendly?

  • I think that's right.

  • I do think that's right, but, you know, again, I don't know the exact circumstances, but I think if the issue you are reaching for is the issue of public perception, then I think that that is something that should be taken into account by people making the decisions as to whether they are going to be the person in charge of something.

  • Yes. I am not seeking to hammer nails into any particular piece of work. I am wanting to make sure that I have a wider range of views from very senior police officers on this extremely difficult but important question, so that it cannot be said that I am simply looking at it from the Olympian position of a judge of the Court of Appeal, if I put the word "Olympian" in inverted commas.

  • I am entirely with you, sir, and I think that you are proper to have asked the question and I hope I've answered it properly, which is that it makes a very difficult piece of public perception and that, that, should be thought of very carefully when somebody was taking the decision as to who would decide on this matter.

  • The final question: were you aware of a report in 2008 from the SCOA, which is the Serious Crime --

  • Serious Organised Crime Agency.

  • Thank you, which is entitled "Private investigators, the rogue element of the private investigation industry"?

  • No, but there has always been a rogue element of the private investigation industry, so it wouldn't surprise me that such a report existed.

  • But that wasn't drawn to your attention?

  • Thank you very much.

  • I have one other question, and you may have seen that I had this discussion with both your predecessors. You understand the responsibility that I have, and I want to make recommendations, if I make recommendations, that will work, that will be seen as relevant to the way in which the police operate, and fit what the public will require. So I have asked others if they have any views on that, and I've said to each, as you might have seen, that doesn't need to be off the top of your head. If you prefer to think about it and write to me, I'd be grateful, but I'm in your hands.

  • I think I would like to take the opportunity of writing to you, because I think it is a matter that needs to be seen, in a sense, at the end of the evidence. I think there's something here about trying to get a picture. But I'm very pleased, if I may say so, to hear that you are looking to produce something that will be meaningful in the context of the police and the context of the media and the politicians, as they develop, and I would just reiterate my view that this is a three-sided triangle, and it does need to be looked at from all of those angles. The relationship between press and politicians as well as police and politicians and whichever the other angle is, is very important.

    If I might add just one other thing, which we touched on lightly. I am of the view that for too much of the police's time over the years there has been an emphasis on disciplinary codes and regulations rather than on the values of the organisation. One of the things that I did when I became Commissioner was to ask 5,000 members of staff what kind of organisation they wanted to belong to and what should its values be, and that was what we used in terms of the training of our senior officers, the transformational values of an organisation, and I would want to emphasise that it's this aspiration to professional propriety that seems to me to be so important, rather than a set of regulations about what you mustn't do.

  • I understand that, but the great problem is that cultural shift is extremely difficult to achieve, and therefore there may need to be a combination of that element with some ground rules that aren't overprescriptive and thereby, because of their complexity, become unworkable. I have a very clear image of a complaint made by the then Assistant Commissioner, Mr Godwin, of the number of plasticised pieces of paper that constables would have to carry about if they followed each and every standard operating procedure, and that they, walking on their beat, would need a truck to carry all those pieces of paper about.

  • I agree. I think the other way of looking at it is there used to be a phrase about minimum models, so the minimum model of how to deal with car crime is this, and if you add all the minimum models together, they're bigger than the Metropolitan Police. I think that is the same problem.

  • The same point. Thank you very much.

  • I think we'll just have a few minutes before the next witness. Thank you.

  • (A short break)

  • The next witness is Mr Quick, please.