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

  • LORD REID (sworn).

  • Could you first please give your full name to the Inquiry?

  • In tab 1 of the bundle you'll find your witness statement, it's dated 10 May 2012. Can you confirm that this is your formal evidence to this Inquiry?

  • And that the contents of it are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • Lord Reid, thank you very much indeed for a very comprehensive and detailed statement. I'm very grateful to you and those who have helped you prepare it for the obvious work that's been put into it.

  • Thank you very much, sir.

  • First of all please, Lord Reid, if we can look at your career history. Paragraphs 1 to 3 of the statement deal with this. I'll just summarise it. You explain that you were first elected as MP for Motherwell North constituency in 1987 and you served as an MP for 23 years until 2010.

    From 1997 in government you held a number of posts, including Home Secretary, Secretary of State for Defence, Secretary of State for Health, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Leader of the House of Commons and President of the Privy Council, Chairman of the Labour Party and Cabinet Minister without portfolio, Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister for Transport and Armed Forces Minister, so a very wide variety of positions.

  • I'm sorry they're so long.

  • I hope you found them interesting.

  • And you explain at paragraph 3 that you held the post of Home Secretary, whose remit included immigration and nationality, counter terrorism, prisons and probation, policing and criminal justice for the period May 2006 until June 2007, and we'll be coming back to your time as Home Secretary and discussing various aspects of that.

    Just for the sake of completeness, you resigned from the Cabinet and the position of Home Secretary in June 2007, having announced your decision to do so some time earlier. You retired as an MP at the General Election in May 2010 and you now serve as a member of the House of Lords?

  • Have I missed anything out?

  • You've not missed anything out of the statement. If you want, you know, an absolutely full curriculum vitae, I'm not only in the House of Lords, but I am a partner with Michael Chertoff in the Global Security Group, I'm Chair of the Institute of Security and Resilience Studies at University College, London, I'm non-exec director of G4S and I occasionally do speeches and other advisory work. I didn't think that was particular relevant here, but just for the fullness.

  • Thank you very much. As Lord Justice Leveson has indicated, you provided a very full statement indeed and I'm going to take most of that as read, which simply means that we accept what you say and I won't be asking questions on every aspect of it. I just want to touch on a number of themes which I'll explore with you.

    Can we turn, please, first to paragraph 16 of your statement. You were asked a question much earlier about your responsibilities in relation to the police, responsibilities as Home Secretary, I should say, in relation to the policing and you were asked a question just before paragraph 4 in fact about policy and operational responsibilities and areas of influence that you had as a Home Secretary in relation to the police insofar as they may have had a bearing on the relationship between the police and the media, I understand that, and you were asked a number of questions about that.

    Then you set out some detail on your responsibilities and at paragraph 16 you say this, and I should say it's 6846 in the bottom right-hand corner, I don't know if you have numbers in the bottom right-hand corner?

  • You do, that's good. We'll proceed on that basis. You say:

    "Throughout my period as Home Secretary I can think of only two specific media-related incidents that gave rise to concern. On both occasions I requested that a leak investigation be established, not least because of the suggestion in some parts of the press that my private office officials or advisers may have been responsible. This was not the case. In fact, in one case the enquiry conclusively established that the informant was a Metropolitan Police official. In the other case the source of the leak was never discovered."

    And you say:

    "In the light of what has emerged during this present Inquiry, it would perhaps be worth reopening that leak investigation."

    Two questions I want to ask you about that paragraph. The first is a question that's been provided by a core participant to this Inquiry, and the question is: when you referred to the Met police official having been the informant in one of the leak inquiries, was that a gentleman known as Thomas Lund-Lack?

  • I think it was. If that is the gentleman who had been, I think, a detective at the Met and retired and then had been rehired --

  • -- at the Met in some capacity, I'm not quite sure which, yes, that's the gentleman. That I think is the name.

  • I'll give you the background I have on that gentleman. He was a retired DI who came back to work as a police staff member in 2003, he was arrested and charged in May 2007, pleaded guilty, in fact, June 2007, and was sentenced to eight months in July 2007 for misconduct in public office. Would that --

  • -- accord with your recollection?

  • That's the gentlemen that I had in mind for that. And I merely mentioned that because there had been some comment in the press that such leaks might come from my office, and as a politician you get used to those forms of accusations without any evidence, but I was specifically concerned because my special adviser, who was being, if you like, fingered for this, I knew he hadn't done it, he knew it, and therefore when the inquiry was concluded and it was discovered that it was actually a leak from the Met, then we felt vindicated on that.

    On the other one, as you say, there was an inquiry, I don't think they ever discovered the culprit, but leaks about terrorist and counter-terrorist activity are, in my view, of the highest delicacy and sensitivity, and therefore in view of some of the stuff we've heard at this Inquiry, perhaps we might look at looking where that particular second leak came from.

  • Right. I think you've now covered my second question on the topic, so thank you very much.

    I'm now going to turn to the issue of phone hacking, Operation Caryatid. You've already explained that you were Home Secretary between the periods May 2006 and June 2007, and you deal with your recollection of events surrounding the conduct of Operation Caryatid at paragraph 22 of your witness statement. That's page 6848, for those of us who have a number in the bottom right-hand corner.

  • What I'm going to do is take it chronologically, Lord Reid.

  • You explain at paragraph 22 that:

    "The following recollection of the context and the events surrounding the arrests of Mulcaire and Goodman is as detailed as I can provide, having had access to my official diary for the relevant period."

    So you've had some assistance in recollecting these events?

  • I've had access to my diary, and I've also asked for searches done for any written briefing on this subject. There was none. And for any meetings on this subject in my diary. There were none. And I've taken some time, 30 paragraphs, to go through this narrative because I knew that this would be a subject of some interest to you, not least because there was a rather misleading article in the press on it.

  • We'll look at that article and go through in this in some detail, so we are grateful to you for the work that you've done. It's been helpful in formulating all the questions.

    Can we start then just with dates. You became Home Secretary in May 2006, and the arrest, of course, of Mr Goodman and Mr Mulcaire were on 8 August 2006.

  • I want to ask two questions about that period, please, between May and 8 August. The first is the context that you were operating in. If we look in that respect at paragraph 23 of your statement, you explain the context there. Is there anything you want to say in your own words about what was happening throughout your time as Home Secretary?

  • Well, I think the difficulty in going over things six years ago is twofold for any observer. One is trying to understand what it was like at the period, and secondly avoiding the danger of trying to impose what you know now on what was happening then. So that's why I did this in such detail.

  • The situation when I became Home Secretary was -- the day I went in it was in crisis over four national prisoners. Actually, the day after I left it was in crisis, with a terrorist attack in Glasgow when Jacqui Smith succeeded me, and in between time it was kind of filled with crisis as well, and I've at some length laid that out at paragraph 49, the other things that were going on.

    But above all, and superseding everything else, in the wake of 9/11 and then 7/7 was the great fear and the great attention paid to the threat of a terrorist attack in London. You'll recall that many people died in London at that time.

    Secondly, when I went in as Home Secretary, I had some knowledge, having been Defence Secretary, of the number of threats and plots that were ongoing. I won't go into that in any detail, but there were maybe up to 70 such plots going. So what I've tried to do in here is to describe the atmospherics, the priorities, the agendas that faced the Home Secretary coming in in May 2006, and above all else was the generality of the terrorist threat.

    Within that, there was one specific threat, because there may be at any time 50, 60, 70 threats, but obviously the Home Secretary would concentrate on those where he was advised they were more imminent, more serious, more likely to take place, and one of them emerged throughout that period from May to August which then became known as Operation Overt. It was the plot to bring down up to 10 airliners, in the last instance an attempt at seven, with potential loss of 2 to 3,000 lives, and that increasingly as we approached August became the centre of most of our attention, on the official side, on certainly the Home Secretary side, and indeed on the police side.

  • We'll come on to the specific dates in a moment, because of course certain things happened in relation to Operation Overt at almost the same time as arrests were being made, but we'll come on to look at the specific dates in a moment.

    The second question I wanted to ask you about the period between May 2006 and 8 August 2006 was as to whether you'd received any briefings on the subject of royal phone hacking. You deal with this at paragraph 24 and you say:

    "To the best of my knowledge I received no briefing, written or oral, with regard to this subject during that period [so between May and 8 August]. As far as I am aware no briefing has been received anywhere else in the Home Office either during this period."

    How have you ascertained that?

  • Well, from my point of view and from the generality of the point of view I asked the Home Office. I think if you come to it there was a note which in the event I probably didn't see which indicated that nothing was known in the Home Office before 8 August, and indeed in the email trail behind another Met note, which didn't come to me, it went to another section of the Home Office, it's also expressed that little or nothing was known about this. So certainly up to 8 August I had not heard of this name, Caryatid, and I had not been briefed on anything at all.

    And the final reinforcement of that recollection is I remember hearing about it, because I heard about it on the evening of 8 August through the media.

  • All right. So your evidence is that prior to that date, prior to hearing it on the news, you simply didn't know about it at all?

  • No, I went in in May, the operation was running at that time, but May, June, July, up to 8 August, to the best of my knowledge, the best of my recollection, the best of the searches that can be carried out, I had not received any information or briefing on this operation.

  • Right. We'll move through the chronology. You explain at the bottom of witness statement paragraph 24 that two events, the arrest and charges of Mulcaire and Goodman and the launch of Operation Overt, in fact took place within the same 24-hour period, ie on 8/9 August 2006.

    Moving through the chronology, paragraph 25. On 8 August 2006, you tell us, the MPS arrested Mr Mulcaire and Mr Goodman and they issued a press notice and briefing concerning the arrests. We have that at tab 2 of the bundles, if we could just turn that up very briefly. It should be the second page of that tab.

  • "Phone hacking media statements", and we see it's dated the 8th and a description of what's happened. I want to focus in on just one matter, which is the fifth paragraph from the bottom:

    "As a result of their inquiries police now believe that public figures beyond the Royal household have had their telephones intercepted, which may have potential security implications."

    So we can agree that the MPS press notice and briefing --

  • -- does make clear that they believe that public figures beyond just the royals have been intercepted, yes?

  • Yes. I think that's quite important. Can I be permitted to make just one point?

  • When I say, sir, that throughout this I wasn't receiving written briefings, it isn't a complaint or a criticism, because I above all know what else the counter terrorist sections of the policing had on their plate, so it is said to put the record straight, and the record is that as of 8 August I had not had any briefing on this. On 8 August in the evening I heard on the news and I subsequently found out, only five weeks ago, that the reason I heard it on the news is there was a Metropolitan Police statement press release that day, that is 8 August. Secondly, that within that statement, it had indicated in writing that there were other victims, not other journalists but other victims, suspected of phone hacking.

  • Yes, of being hacked. Not other journalists and not in specific name. And therefore there was two days or three days of widespread media coverage, which directed itself to the fact that there may be other victims of this; indeed it said on occasions including an MP, including a Cabinet Minister and so on. So that was all in the public domain, which is the mechanism through which I actually first learned of it on the evening of 8 August.

  • Let's be absolutely precise. This MPS press briefing, that's not how you found out either, was it?

  • No, absolutely not. When in the course of evidence here it was -- well, one report afterwards suggested that I had received secret briefings with material that wasn't in the public domain, I'm afraid I had to carry out my own search, and when I carried out that search, through a freedom of information request, someone had procured all of these MPS briefings.

    So that illustrated to me why the media was carrying on 8 August in the evening not only reports of the arrests but reports that there may be other victims of it, and indeed it was through that media report. Presumably there were other oral briefings, since the reports over the next 24 to 48 hours went slightly further.

  • I promise you, we'll go through all the documents and all the potential briefings that may have been referred to.

  • All right. But I didn't see that at the time, the MPS --

  • Exactly. So at this point, up to 8 August, you know nothing about it. The MPS briefing comes out, you don't know anything about it either at that stage. Then, as you say, there's widespread reporting, and we can see all the articles behind tab 3 of the bundle --

  • -- that you've provided us, and yes, again, this whole issue is being reported and if we look, for example, the first page of tab 3, an extract from the Daily Telegraph at midnight, 8 August:

    "The investigation has now extended beyond Clarence House and detectives believe that other public figures, thought to include an MP, have been targeted."

    So there's already speculation that an MP, a politician, may well have been targeted.

  • There's transcripts from the BBC 10 O'Clock News again referring to potential MPs, Radio 4 interviews, there's the Guardian the next day reporting the same story.

    You tell us in your witness statement that you were unaware of the MPS press briefing, but that you did become aware of this issue --

  • -- because of the fact the press were reporting on it, the media was reporting it.

  • Well, part of the reason that I may have been unaware during the day of the MPS press release is that I didn't actually hear the media through the day nor was I at my office because I had an attack of what is called iritis, I was taken in as an emergency to Moorfields Eye Hospital. So it was that evening when I first heard it and I laid out what I did when I first heard of it.

  • I was about to come to that. Paragraph 27 of your witness statement, you explain that during the day of 8 August you had to attend an emergency doctor's appointment and then go to Accident & Emergency at Moorfields Eye Hospital for treatment for an eye complaint, if I can just put it that way. You may not have been aware of it. You tell us at paragraph 28 to the best of your recollection you became first aware of Caryatid, although you didn't know it under that name at the time, later that evening through the media internet news.

    I want to know your reaction when you first -- having found out about this issue on the news, what was your reaction?

  • I'm not sure you do want to know my reaction.

  • I think it went beyond surprise. I picked up the phone from my home and phoned a group in my private office called the rapid reaction team who dealt with media, and if you want to know I said basically, "What the hell is going on?" and they said, "We don't know". They then phoned the Permanent Secretary's office and got his assistant called Richard Riley. Richard described to them and they then conveyed to me basically what I'd heard on the Evening News, which wasn't a very enlightening briefing, if you can call it that, and I'm afraid I then -- and it was quite late at night -- picked up the phone and phoned the Met Commissioner and said to him, "What the hell is going on?" And the Met Commissioner was kind enough to confirm the media stories, including the fact that a friend of a Cabinet Minister was a suspect -- sorry, a suspected victim of phone hacking.

  • Yes. My memory is it wasn't the Cabinet Minister, it was a friend, and for the record it wasn't the Deputy Prime Minister either.

  • So that was the sum total of my knowledge of that evening, and indeed for a considerable period of time, and it's exactly what was in the public domain.

  • All right. So at that stage you'd made two phone calls, you'd obtained some information, but by and large it was what was in the public domain. Was there any mention during either of those phone calls of other journalists, other than Mr Goodman --

  • -- other journalists being involved in this?

  • There was no mention of other journalists, not only then, but I'm perhaps pre-empting you, but at any future stage. And it's interesting to note that the MPS note that went elsewhere in the Home Office and the note that Richard Riley did that I possibly didn't see, neither of them mentioned other journalists either.

  • All right, we're coming on to them, I promise. Okay, so that's the 8th. Busy day. Paragraph 29 of your witness statement you explain that the next day, 9 August, a one-page note was apparently drafted by Richard Riley. You've explained who that was, presumably in response to your inquiry the evening before. You said:

    "I have no recollection of seeing the note at the time, and the record suggests that I did not."

    The one-page note is behind tab 8. I say it's one page, but of course it's one and a half pages. Can we look at it?

  • It's dated 9 August and there's a heading, "Home Secretary", underlined:

    "You asked for a note of what we were told of yesterday's arrest by the Metropolitan Police in connection with an investigation into unlawful access to voicemails."

    And then there is essentially an update as to what happened, the process, and then under "Points to note":

    "We have not received precise details of the investigation but if there is an offence here, it might be under ..."

    Whatever act. He then says:

    "TPU colleagues are urgently seeking a meeting ..."

    There's no indication that there's any terrorism aspect. And then lines to take, over the page, noting this is an ongoing operation:

    "This is an operational matter for the Metropolitan Police, potentially a criminal offence. We are urgently seeing to learn whatever lessons are necessary."

    Leaving aside for the moment whether you ever saw this note, we'll come back to that in a moment, clearly no mention of other journalists. Was there anything in there, any substantive point in there that was not in the public domain?

  • I don't think there was any substantive point in there at all that wasn't in the public domain.

  • It's also worth noting, a point I've made several times in my submission, that this is an operational matter for the police, was the advice given, because as you know, sir, there's a distinction between accountability to Parliament and actual operations, so that was immediately notified on this which is why, to some extent, not exclusively, this is a bit of an academic argument, given that what I knew was limited. Even if it had been slightly greater then it would have to be kept in confidence unless there were extraordinary reasons for me to intervene in operations, which you may wish to cover later.

  • We will come on to that, whether or not you could or would have done anything differently.

  • Let's stay for the moment with whether or not you actually saw this note that was prepared by Richard Riley.

  • You say the record suggests that you did not see it, and at paragraph 29 of your witness statement you say:

    "I am informed by the Home Office that their records show no acknowledgment of receipt nor response to the note or any other indication that it was seen by me."

    And you explain it is not surprising in view of the events that were to take place, which we'll come to in a moment. Do you know if you would have marked the note in any way if you had received it?

  • Yes, indeed. I was in the habit of, when I read a piece, scribbling my initials on it, so that if there was some dispute later, "Have you read it?", you could go back to it. And I therefore asked the Home Office to show me the note that I had signed. They couldn't do so because I'm afraid like the rest of the world everything has gone electronic, so I was told that, no, the method of doing this was to record a receipt from my office electronically, or a response, or any acknowledgment, and there were none of those things.

    So on the one hand the note didn't actually contain anything that wasn't in the public domain, but as a matter of factual reckon there is no indication that although the note was prepared on the 9th, that it was actually acknowledged or received in my office, far less seen by me, and then I go on to explain why that might well be the case, because Operation Overt was launched that day.

  • So far we're at this point. A note is prepared but your recollection is that you didn't see it and there's nothing that would indicate otherwise?

  • And in any event it didn't really contain anything that was not already in the public domain --

  • Or that I had not heard in the media.

  • And, on top of all of that, Operation Overt was kicking off. If we look at paragraph 30, we can see what you say about that. Do you want to say in your own words what happened on 9 August, which coincided with the preparation of this note?

  • Yes. For abbreviation you and Lord Leveson could watch The Liquid Bomb Plot, which is a documentary of an hour and a half which describes exactly what happened around that time, but in as abbreviated form as I can give, I had several meetings on 9 August, including a speech on, as it happened, the nature of modern conflict and terrorism I think at a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, because the Prime Minister was out of the country, so I was out of the office for most of that day. In the evening I had a window of what -- a terrible term we nowadays call chillaxing, for some reason, which was a football match that I went to, it was Glasgow Celtic versus Chelsea, and at half-time, having had briefings for days and expecting Operation Overt, the biggest counter terrorist operation the country had ever launched, to take place possibly at the weekend, at around half-time at that game I started to get signals from my protection team that I would have to move.

    I was then told I had to leave. I was put in a police car with sirens and various other things and a cavalcade through London. I was taken to the Home Office and told I immediately had to go and chair a Cobra briefing, and the reason was that by one of these chronological coincidences, almost exactly as Mulcaire and Goodman were being charged, the Pakistan authorities had lifted the key person and ringleader in this terrorist plot, which meant that the chances of a leakage from that, so that the terrorist here discovered that he had been arrested or was not communicating and would therefore launch the terrorist plot, became uppermost in everybody's mind. So overnight from then on and for some considerable period afterwards we were almost exclusively directing our attentions towards the arrest of all of the parties that we knew to be involved, and the avoidance of a catastrophe of immense magnitude.

    So that's what happened on the evening of the 9th.

  • You've in fact explained that Cobra met through the night on 9 August and remained on call subsequent nights thereafter. The terrorist threat level to the UK was raised from severe to critical, meaning that a further attack was believed to be imminent, and personally you arranged to sleep in the Home Office or your Parliamentary office at this time and all of your attention was almost entirely focused on the operation and potentially related consequences during the following weeks; that's correct, isn't it?

  • Can we then move on to the period 9 August -- so this date we've just been looking at -- through to June 2007 when you ceased being Home Secretary, please. You explain at paragraph 32 that in the months after this until you stepped down you can't recall any briefings, written or oral, or meetings on the phone hacking investigation. Have you checked that?

  • Yes, I've checked that. Ministerial briefing would normally consist of two things. One is a paper which would succinctly set out the facts, which would go through what had happened, which would outline the courses of action and proposals and then would raise the questions of challenges, advantages and difficulties in each of those areas. That would be for the minister to read. The minister would then meet with the relevant officials or the police or the agencies, and then would go through that, satisfy himself by questioning and comment that he was happy with what was proposed, or select a proposed form of action.

    So there would be a written and a briefing element to what we would conventionally call a ministerial briefing.

    I've had the Home Office check and search for any written briefing after this period of 8/9 August. They have informed me that they have been unable to find any written briefing on this subject whatsoever. I have also had my diary checked to see if there was any meeting called on this, and out of some 4,500 diary entries, there is no such meeting.

    So to the best of my knowledge and recollection, as I have said, I did not receive any briefings on this matter.

    Again, that's not a matter of criticism or complaint, it's for others to judge, but I put it on the record.

  • We can take these paragraphs fairly quickly. You explain at paragraph 33 that you requested the Home Office to carry out a search for any written briefings, they have been unable to identify any. Paragraph 34, no briefing meetings on the subject either. And you simply say that the simple fact is that without the benefit of hindsight or any contemporary evidence to the contrary, the issue was at the time considered an operational police matter that they were handling, with no appearance of impropriety or other reason for ministerial intervention, and thus a subject of relatively low priority for the attention of ministers. Right.

    Can we look at paragraph 37 onward, further down the page. You explain you've also asked for the Parliamentary record for this period to be searched.

  • Since Parliamentary proceedings, especially questions, tend to reflect the priorities of the day. The Home Office oral questions would allow an opportunity for MPs to raise issues of concern, and you explain that over the period you personally responded to 215 oral questions. Not one of them referred to this issue.

    At paragraph 39, a search of the written Parliamentary Questions indicate again that at no time during your period in office was this issue raised, despite again the considerable number of written questions submitted.

    Paragraph 40, no ministerial statement made on the issue or asked for, and again, given what was known at the time, the reasons for that, you say, are that it was considered an operational matter for the police.

    So a fairly comprehensive search, Lord Reid?

  • Yes, and I did the search partly because given the immense amount of material which you and Lord Leveson have to deal with that is now in the public domain, I wanted to question myself: at this time, was this somehow a matter of Parliamentary public concern, were there questions being asked about it, were there statements being demanded on it and so on. Was I somehow untypical?

    The answer, I think, lies in these questions, that out of hundreds of Parliamentary Questions, not just to me, there were hundreds more asked to the ministers at the Home Office, not one question was directed on this, according to the search done by the Home Office, no written questions either, no statements on it. There was nothing brought to my attention by HMIC or any of the regulatory bodies.

    I asked for this to be carried out basically to counterbalance the tendency to know that what is known now was known then, and if this was all known then, why wasn't something done about it.

  • I think we've carefully examined your state of knowledge up to this point. Can we look now at paragraph 35, because I want to ask you about this sentence. Halfway through that paragraph there's a sentence which starts:

    "Through the period until the end of January 2007, when sentences were handed down following the trial of Mulcaire and Goodman, the issue thus remained properly an operational matter for the police and CPS", et cetera.

    You go on to say:

    "In the several months thereafter until I stood down ... my understanding was that the same bodies were working through the material with a view to extracting evidence."

    How did you gain that understanding?

  • That was my understanding, and I think my understanding, because there was no formal briefings, there was no writings or whatever, but I met with the Met Commissioner on a couple of occasions, particularly towards the end of my period when we did a sort of wash-up tour de raison, going right through everything from the Metropolitan Policing to gun crime, knife crime, policing statistics, changes and conditions that were being proposed, pensions and so on, the views of the Police Federation, all of that, and in that one of the aspects that was touched upon, as I recall, quite briefly, was: where are we on this operation regarding phone hacking?

    My recollection of that is that I was told that there were masses of evidence to be worked through. I think I was told that much of it was handwritten. And in any case -- I beg your pardon, I've used the wrong phrase. Masses of information to work through, much of it handwritten, and I remember being reminded that information wasn't evidence, and therefore it was a huge amount of work to do on this.

    So that was certainly my impression when I left office, that having carried out the convictions on Goodman and Mulcaire, that now what was being done on the generality of it because there were other suspected victims of this --

  • Perhaps we'll come on. That was your very final meeting, wasn't it, with --

  • I think it was my final meeting. I can't be sure of that, but I think the final meeting was around May with Ian.

  • We'll come onto that in a moment as we're working through the chronology. I want to finish off on paragraph 35. You explain that again on what was then known to ministers, this was properly an operational matter for the police:

    "This perception was not confined to ministers but shared much more widely. During my time as Home Secretary I met with politicians, officials and members of the public on a regular basis and cannot recall the investigation being a live topic of conversation."

    So how did you assess the perception if it wasn't being discussed?

  • This is my recollection some six years later. I don't recall this being raised with me at press conferences, when I met members of the public, when I was in my constituency. It wasn't raised with me in Parliament, no oral or written questions, no demands for statements, none of the regulators was raising it. So in reality this was at the time based on what we as ministers knew was a very tiny dot at the far edge of a very crowded radar screen in the Home Office and that's where it remained for some considerable time, I suppose until 2009 when some wider revelations started to come out.

  • We'll come on to that period. You've already answered my next question about whether or not the subject was ever raised with you by anyone else, regulatory body, sources within the newspaper industry, anyone from News International, and the answer to that was no.

  • There's two aspects to that. One is did any of the regulatory bodies like Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary come to me and say, "Look, there's something wrong here with the way the Met's handling this" or something, and the answer to that is no, not to my knowledge did anybody come and say that.

    The second, was it never raised by anybody at News International in any of the interactions I had with them either through formal scheduled meetings or otherwise, and the answer to that is no as well. I can genuinely say I cannot recall anybody, even, you know, a reporter you might meet in a corridor in the House of Commons, while I was Home Secretary, or indeed afterwards, having said to me anything about this issue.

  • I suppose when you look back, given that there was such a lack of live discussion on it, it might not have made sense for anybody to raise the issue either. Anybody from News International, I mean.

  • At paragraphs 41 and 42, you give us a very detailed analysis of some of the other issues in the general area of policing and security that were given higher priority during this time, just so that the Inquiry has a flavour of the sorts of issues that you were having to deal with.

  • And then at 42, you don't deal just with the priorities, you also deal with the routine ministerial duties that you had to deal with as well.

  • I apologise for the length of these, but prioritisation is almost by definition a relative decision. You decide to concentrate on something compared to the other things that you might concentrate on. Given what was known at the time, this was not a high priority.

  • All right. I'm going to move --

  • I ought perhaps just to declare -- I noticed it -- that the probability is that I was also sitting on the National Criminal Justice Board at the same time as Lord Reid was, but I have no recollection particularly of any mention either of this or indeed of any other issue that particularly impacts on my memory. I had not noticed it until I just read it in your statement.

  • I want to turn to your contact with the MPS during this period because we need to cross the t's and dot the i's. You explain in paragraph 43 onwards that you did throughout this period regularly meet with representatives of the police in the course of your duty, especially, as has become self-evident I'm sure, in connection with counter terrorism matters.

    You explain that you most often met with Andy Hayman and/or Peter Clarke in their counter terrorist role and you say this at paragraph 43:

    "It is of course quite possible that the issue was touched upon ..."

    And the issue we're talking here about the Caryatid issue.

    "It is quite possible that the issue was touched upon informally with either of them around the time of the initial media coverage of 8-9 August but I cannot personally recollect any specific discussion with them on this matter."

    Then you say to the best of your recollection you never met with John Yates but you did have meetings with the Met Commissioner and you've already explained that you had a conversation with him on the night of 8 August?

  • "What the hell is going on?" I think were your precise words.

  • That was paraphrasing. I was probably much more polite than that.

  • Indeed.

    Paragraph 46 onwards deals with an MPS report which Peter Clarke, the former Deputy Assistant Commissioner, seems to have said in evidence was sent to you.

    Before I ask you whether or not you saw it or before we look at it, can we look at what Mr Clarke said, both in his written evidence to the Inquiry and in his oral evidence, please.

    Tab 5 is his witness statement to the Inquiry and turn to page 48 internally, paragraph 100, I believe.

  • Page 48 internally. This is actually about a discussion that he may have had with you. Do you see that?

  • Page 48, yes. Is that paragraph 100?

  • 100. I'll read it for those of us who don't have it:

    "I am absolutely clear in my mind Her Majesty's Government were fully aware of the case at the time Goodman and Mulcaire were arrested. I recall discussing the case with John Reid, then Home Secretary, shortly after Goodman and Mulcaire had been arrested. This was in the margins of a meeting about broader counter terrorism issues in the immediate aftermath of the Operation Overt arrests and was of little significance other than to demonstrate that the Home Office had been informed of the arrests and the broad nature of the case that was alleged against Goodman and Mulcaire."

    So that's what he's saying about the discussion.

  • In the margins of a meeting about something else, in the media aftermath of Operation Overt, and describes it as of little significance other simply than to demonstrate that the Home Office had been told of the arrest and the broad nature of the case.

    Now if we then look at what he said in oral evidence, please, it's the next tab and the first page of that should contain an extract from the transcript of proceedings on 1 March 2012.

  • Is this 6 or 7? 6, yes, I have it, thank you.

  • Mr Clarke has been asked a number of questions about whether or not the government should have been informed about what was going on during this period.

  • Look at the top left-hand box, the one that says page 53 at the bottom. The question is:

    "One possible consequence of informing Lord Prescott or the then Deputy Prime Minister, of course we know he wasn't informed, some might say that had he been informed it might not have been possible to, as it were, put a lid on this. There might have been an explosion. This would have entered the public domain and you might have been forced to carry out the investigation you did not want to carry out; was that a consideration which entered your mind?"

    And he says:

    "Well, it wouldn't be for me to go direct to Lord Prescott. I discussed this with the then Home Secretary, Dr Read. He was aware of the investigation."

    And then Lord Justice Leveson says:

    "Well, the point is, if he'd been alert to the extent to which his personal information was available [that's Lord Prescott] the limited extent to which Mr Garnham has reminded me, then as a victim he might have had a reaction that would have meant it was very difficult for the police not to pursue it."

    And then the question is:

    "He might well have done but perhaps I haven't explained very clearly."

    And he refers there to the victims strategy not working as intended. And then the box underneath that, which is page 54, Mr Jay, just after the line 8:

    "Can I just go back to your discussion with Dr Reid, the then Home Secretary. Did you make it clear to him that although the investigation had clearly and conclusively implicated Goodman and Mulcaire, (a) the range of victims was far wider than the royal household, and (b) that other journalists might well have been involved?"

  • He specifically asked that question about your state of knowledge.

  • And he says:

    "I think it did. I don't remember the exact content of that discussion. I know that a briefing paper went from the Met Police to the Home Office and that Dr Reid was aware of it and it was on the basis of that that he asked me some questions in the margins of another meeting, a meeting actually about the airlines terrorist plot."

    And then Lord Justice Leveson says:

    "Do we have that document?"

    Mr Jay says:

    "No, no. We can ask for it."

    And Lord Justice Leveson says:

    "I'm just keen to cope as comprehensively as I can with the allegations that have been made, which are, of course, extremely damaging to the Metropolitan Police."

    I'll pause there. Those are the extracts I'd like you to consider. Now can we agree this. Mr Clarke is saying two things really, one that he had a conversation with you, which is in line with what he said in his written statement?

  • And if we look carefully at what he says, he thinks that during the course of that discussion he made it clear to you that (a) the range of victims was far wider than the Royal household and (b) that other journalists might well have been involved, right?

  • I don't ask you to comment on it for the moment, I just want you to understand the parameters of what he says.

  • The second thing he's saying is he knows a briefing paper went from the Metropolitan Police to the Home Office and that you were aware of it and it's on that basis that you then had the discussion?

  • Do you see that? That's essentially what he says?

  • We can't take it any further than that because that's essentially what he says about these issues.

    Can we first of all look at the briefing paper that was referred to by Mr Clarke in his evidence there. It's at tab 7.

  • This is the one that he says was sent to the Home Office and was seen by you.

  • And that formed the basis for your discussion. Look at it, please, Lord Reid. Did you ever see this -- it's dated 9 August. Did you ever see this document at the time?

  • Not to the best of my knowledge, not to the fullness of my recollection. The first time I saw this was immediately after Peter had given his evidence, and I managed to acquire this document. It was never sent to me. As it says clearly at the top of it, it was provided to the Home Office Terrorism and Protection Unit.

  • Can we pause there, as it makes clear in paragraph 1:

    "This is a confidential document provided to the Home Office Terrorism and Protection Unit following the briefing note prepared by Richard Riley for the Home Secretary" --

  • It's important to underline this isn't the first piece of paper. Actually the next document appears to be the first piece of paper, because this document refers to the briefing note, and the briefing note must be the next document; is that right?

  • I can help you, sir, yes. The first piece of paper -- you recall I discovered this through the news on the evening of the 8th. I then phoned my private office. My private office then phoned the office of the Permanent Secretary. The Permanent Secretary's secretary was called Richard Riley. Richard Riley gave my private office the information they had, which they conveyed to me, which was no more than was in the media reports.

    The following day as a result of my call, Richard Riley prepared a one-page note, which we've already covered, which went no further than anything that had been in the media.

    At the same time, somebody in the Home Office phoned the Metropolitan Police or emailed the Metropolitan Police, we have the emails here, and said, "Can you give us any further information?" and this is the MPS note that was sent to the terrorist protection unit, not to my office, to which Peter Clarke apparently referred, because he assumed that because I asked him a question on the presumably snatched conversation on the margins of another meeting, that I must have read this. In fact, my information had come from the media. And the conversation with the Metropolitan Commissioner.

  • The following page is the note we've already looked at.

  • Yes, I know, but I assumed that this document followed the document at 8 because it refers to a briefing note prepared by Richard Riley for the Home Secretary on 9 August.

  • It certainly followed in time.

  • It followed in time.

  • We're going to have some evidence on whether or not it did physically follow or not.

  • The document makes clear in the first paragraph that it's a document provided to the Home Office Terrorism and Protection Unit.

  • What is the TPU? What's its role?

  • The TPU is a unit in the Home Office which to the best of my knowledge, it isn't a policy unit that sits with the private office of the Home Secretary, it deals with the protection of VIPs, it would allocate resources, it would take care of the technical side of things and so on, and if you read carefully this note, this note is actually a technical operational type note, it's about two and a half pages, one and a half pages of which tells you how to hack a phone, and it tells them the sort of things that have been done.

    It doesn't say anything more on any of the general aspects of journalists or anything else than was in the media. It doesn't mention the DPM. It doesn't mention journalists other than Mulcaire and Goodman. It doesn't mention dozens of MPs, thousands of names or anything. In any case, even if it did, it wasn't sent to me. It was sent to the operational centre for VIP protection, terrorist protection unit, and it was sent by Commander Loughborough over at the Met who deals with presumably similar things among his many responsibilities.

  • When you say in your statement it was not prepared for you, is that what you mean, it was prepared for essentially a technical unit within the Home Office?

  • Yes. If you read the emails behind this, I'm not suggesting we should go through them, I'm happy to go through them in detail, but one of the things it says is that note from the Home Office TPU saying, "We told the Home Secretary what we know of this, which is very little."

    What I'm saying to you is actually verified in the exchange of emails. So is there anything else we should know about it? This note is then sent and then the ensuing emails go on to discuss, well, should we talk to the telephone companies? What practical measures should we put in place?

    So the assumption that Peter understandably made, that the information I had got came from a note from the MPS, was a wrong assumption. The information I had in the first instance came from the television, radio, Internet, and then it came from a brief conversation with the Met Commissioner, and in any case it would be interesting to know when this note was actually sent, because I learned of this on the evening of the 8th and you may wish to explore whether this was sent on the 8th or the 9th. It's dated the 9th but it wasn't sent then.

  • We'll look at the emails in just a moment. I just want to clarify a number of matters. The first is if a document like this was sent to the TPU, not marked for your attention in any obvious way, simply provided to the Home Office TPU, how likely is it that you would get to see it or it would be passed for your attention?

  • Well, it's highly unlikely that it was sent to me unless it had some great significant revelation in it other than the one sentence that says it's suspected that a Cabinet Minister may have been a victim. That was already all over the news. There's no reason why somebody would immediately say we'll send this to the Home Secretary. It certainly wasn't copied in to me. And if it did, it wouldn't have told me anything that I didn't already know anyway.

  • So we know it doesn't mention other journalists being potentially involved, it doesn't mention any reference to anything like the number of victims that we now know about, and as you say, large parts of it are essentially an operational note --

  • And it doesn't mention the Deputy Prime Minister.

  • And in fact a lot of it is explaining how Goodman and Mulcaire operated, how they accessed PIN numbers?

  • And so on and so forth?

  • Incidentally, some of that was also in the media, if you read the reports on Radio 4 for the 8th and 9th they had experts on telling you how to do that, so even that wasn't particularly new.

  • We'll look at the emails, but for the sake of completeness, you explained to us that you've spoken now with the head of the TPU, Mr Nye, who doesn't recall speaking to you about this either.

  • No. In the wake of one particular report, which I obviously felt misrepresented the position, I took the trouble to phone up my former Permanent Secretary, the head of the TPU, members of my privates office, my special advisers, and said, "Please tell me if you can recollect any conversation we had on this issue at the time, because I don't want to be in a position where I'm saying something and you can recall discussing it."

    The answer from all of them, including William Nye, was, "No, I can't recall any discussion we had on this."

  • That's helpful. Can we come to the emails briefly. They're at tabs 11 to 20 of the bundle. 11 we can ignore because it's a handwritten note.

  • There is a transcript of it over the page on tab 12, so we can look at that instead. Can you shed any light on what this note is?

  • Yes. It's basically a fuller operational note that follows up the brief note that Richard Riley had prepared. What appears -- if you want me to run through it quickly?

  • Okay, why don't we run through it very quickly?

  • What appears to have happened is somebody at the Home Office and TPU got in contact with Commander Loughborough's office and said, "Look, what is going on?" There were obviously various attempts from this handwritten note to phone people, it's an undated handwritten note so I don't know when they were made, but it's not surprising that everybody in the Home Office appeared to be unavailable because they were involved in counter terrorism and we'd just launched Operation Overt.

    He then responds to the TPU and says -- sorry, the TPU in the Home Office write to him and they say: Our knowledge -- this is from Tim Warren to Commander Loughborough on the 9th, so that's marked "2" on the top right-hand side -- they say: Our knowledge is very limited on this, can you tell us anything? That's basically the story of that first message.

  • Can we just be sure it's tab 13 we're on?

  • Email from Tim Warren to Peter Loughborough?

  • We know Tim Warren is from the TPU?

  • He says there how limited our information was in it. Just for the record, it also says underneath it:

    "For the record the Home Secretary asked for an urgent note on what we knew about yesterday's MPS arrests which are now subject to media reporting."

    That's because I had phoned the night before, that's the note from Richard Riley, because I had known nothing about this when it come up.

  • Then the following day, or rather still on 9 August, there's a response from Peter Loughborough. It says:

    "Thanks, I'll discuss this with the senior investigating officer."

    Then the later one, which is still on 9 August, Commander Loughborough says: "I'm meeting Keith ...", presumably Keith Surtees.

  • "... shortly to discuss this." This is on tab 15.

    On tab 16, there is a draft which is prepared, which is sent to someone else inside the Met for consideration --

  • Pause there. This is a draft of the MPS note that was sent --

  • Yes, I assume so. I've only seen these a week ago so I assume that was the draft being prepared and this is now 7 o'clock on 9 August, it's sent for comment to Keith Surtees.

    The next one at tab 17 is the draft itself, which as we've already noted says practically nothing that hasn't already been in the 8th and 9th in the press.

    Then it is sent for comments to somebody called Caroline Murdoch, interestingly, which I take it was also somebody inside the Met rather than elsewhere, saying is this suitable to send across to the TPU?

    But then, presumably because everyone else is working on Operation Overt, on tab 19, which is 10 August, the following day, at 6.30 it still hasn't been sent because he's unable to speak to the senior investigating officer who's been involved all night with the current operation, which is Operation Overt.

  • And he says:

    "I will speak to you again tomorrow morning."

    And that's the 11th. So presumably at some stage on the 11th the paper is finally sent, and there is a note of receipt and comments sent at 5 o'clock on the evening of the 11th for the note which basically covers what has been in the press for the last two and a half days.

  • That's tab 20, sir.

  • Anything within that to indicate that it was anything other than sent to the TPU?

  • We've gone into that in perhaps inordinate detail but basically to illustrate that what I said in my statement, before I saw these emails, before I actually saw them, appears to be verified.

    I mean, first of all, this note was not addressed to me, but went to the TPU. Secondly, there was nothing in this note that wasn't already in the public domain. And thirdly, it would appear to have been sent on 11 August, after there had been wide media coverage based on the original MPS draft. In fact much of this note could have come from the MPS draft. I merely emphasise again this is not a complaint. It's to set the record straight because these guys who were preparing this were up to their eyes in Operation Overt.

  • Let's see if there's any difference between the evidence you've just given us and the evidence of Mr Clarke. He says:

    "I know that a briefing paper went from the Metropolitan Police to the Home Office ..."

  • Yes, it went to the TPU, you would say?

  • "... and that Dr Reid was aware of it."

    Well, you say no, but can you explain why he thinks you were aware of it?

  • Because the topics covered in that were precisely the topics covered in the media, no more and no less, and therefore Peter quite correctly -- I don't think Peter has in any way attempted to ill-inform the committee. I think it is perfectly possible that on the evening of 9 August when we were dealing with Operation Overt the following day, perfectly possible I had a conversation with him, as he said, on the margins, as he said, of little significance other than to indicate I knew the broad nature of the case against Mulcaire and Goodman, everything written by that time through the media knew the broad case, and therefore he has assumed -- he knew there was a note sent to the Home Office because somebody had tried to have it cleared with him, and he's assumed that the questions I asked him were on the basis of that note rather than what I heard in the media and the conversation with the Commissioner.

  • The last t to cross and i to dot is this. He says that during this discussion on the margins of another meeting he thinks that he made it clear that the range of victims was far wider than the Royal household and that other journalists might be involved. Is that your recollection of what was discussed?

  • The first part of it is taken for granted. It was in the public domain that there were victims other than the Royal household, so I think he's right on that. I had no knowledge at the time that there were other journalists, but he's -- you know, Peter is not definite on that. He says he thinks.

    The interesting thing is that he says, "I think it did". I'm not sure whether that refers to the discussion or to the Metropolitan Police paper, which didn't come to me. If it referred to the latter, of course he was mistaken anyway because that didn't refer to other journalists either.

  • We now have your evidence on this. Let's cast aside the detail. There are two documents that you say you simply didn't see, the first briefing note, 9 August, the Richard Riley note, and then secondly the MPS briefing which was sent to the TPU, yes?

  • Leave aside for the moment that you didn't see them.

  • If you had seen them both, assuming it, do you think your reaction would or could have been any different?

  • No, since neither of them said any more, to all intents and purposes neither of them said any more than was already in the public domain, then my reaction wouldn't have been any different.

    It's also worth pointing out that if I had been told a little more, then I would have been bound by the confidence that ministers have to observe when they're given confidential information. As it happens, I wasn't. So some of this, while it is worth establishing the record, some of it is rather academic because the position was that there was in the public domain the knowledge that there had been arrests, that people had done phone hacking and it was likely there were other suspects, including either a Cabinet Minister or --

  • I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon, you're quite correct. Thank you for that. It was in the public domain that there were possible other victims, including an MP or a Cabinet Minister.

    What was not in the public domain and was not in my awareness was that there were other journalists suspected, that there were perhaps hundreds of victims and thousands of names, that the DPM was one of them, Deputy Prime Minister, so all of this material that we now know and which sometimes in some of these reports it's implied I must have known at the time is completely untrue. That was the extent of my awareness.

  • All right. I have a couple of questions that have been asked by another core participant to this Inquiry. Should you have attempted to find out more in your view, especially given that Cabinet ministers are rumoured to have been victims?

  • There is a distinction in a democratic society and thank God it exists between politicians' accountability and oversight of agencies, whether it's intelligence or police, and the actual control and intervention in operations. That is a distinction that is absolutely essential, and therefore a minister is told about things but only in very exceptional circumstances will intervene.

    If we ask what were those circumstances and did they apply at the time, first of all, where there is some prima facie evidence that there is malfeasance or incompetence or something else wrong with the operation itself, there wasn't a shred of evidence or indeed any suggestion to me from any quarter that that was the case as regards this investigation. Secondly, if the regulatory authorities came to you, like HMIC, came to you and said, "You ought to look into this further". Thirdly, if there was such a public and Parliamentary demand that you would demand further information or whatever, and none of those circumstances pertained at the time.

    So I am not sure on what grounds, other than hindsight, which is the only exact science known to men and women, I'm not sure on what grounds it would be argued that I should have intervened in that police operation, given what I and other ministers knew at the time.

  • The second question is: did you ever speak to Cabinet colleagues or the Prime Minister at that time before the convictions?

  • No, I didn't. And I didn't even speak to the Cabinet colleague whose friend was a suspected victim, and there's a reason for that, because however inconvenient it may be, if you're in receipt of confidential information regarding either an operation or a prosecution, you cannot speak to anyone about that, and in particular, I would think, to suspects, witnesses, victims or whatever. And you can't make an exception of that just because it's a friend who happens to be involved.

    So I had no discussions on that, just the same way, if I might say so, during the 12 months of investigation into Mr Blair and his office staff, I had no discussions with them in it and that was a real test, in a sense -- I mean one of them I didn't even bump into from time to time, Michael Levy, who I knew, and I knew his wife was terribly ill. It was terrible what was happening to her. I could not lift the phone to ask him how his wife was throughout that period.

    So my knowledge was limited -- not a complaint, matter of record -- but even if it had been greater, it was not within the bounds of propriety and responsibility as Home Secretary to start chatting about this case to witnesses, suspects, victims or whatever.

  • All right. Can we turn to the article which does seem to allege that there was some kind of cover-up during this period by the government. It's tab 21, a Guardian article dated 2 March 2012. I am going to pick out some highlights which I'm going to ask you to comment on in a moment.

    It starts like this:

    "The Tony Blair government was secretly briefed about the phone hacking scandal according to the head of the aborted 2006 police investigation into the News of the World. Peter Clarke made the unexpected claim to the Leveson Inquiry this week. The hearing heard details of how the targeting of Labour Cabinet ministers was subsequently kept quiet."

    It then refers to the confidential report on phone hacking which was sent to you --

  • Ms Patry Hoskins, I won't stop you doing this, but having gone through the whole story and because this story is based entirely on the reading of what Mr Clarke said to me, what's the value in going over this?

  • Sir, you might say this, but in fact the crucial paragraph comes over the page four paragraphs down where it says:

    "The police claim to Leveson raised the possibility for the first time that the Blair government colluded in a cover-up. At the time, according to former ministers, the Labour administration was anxious to keep on good terms with the Murdoch papers."

    I wasn't going to go through any of what we've already discussed at some length but to address the issue of whether or not somehow any of this decision not to do anything or take matters any further might have been because of a desire to keep on good term with the Murdoch papers.

  • To that end I'm afraid I've received a number of questions from other core participants asking about whether or not Lord Reid had a special relationship with the Murdoch papers.

  • But I'm happy not to ask them.

  • No, if you've been asked to ask the questions, ask away.

  • I was only introducing the concept of cover-up and giving Lord Reid a chance to deal with that.

    I was going to say I've been asked to ask you some questions on this by another core participant to the Inquiry. You are quoted in articles which I'm not go to turn up, I've provided you with copies, but quoted in articles --

  • Just before you go on would you permit me, I hope that my answers have adequately responded to any questions either of you might have, and in the course of it, though that was not the intention, completely undermined the premise on which this was based about secret meetings and all sorts of information.

  • It's why I asked the question of Ms Patry Hoskins.

  • Yes, sir. I hope that what I have said today puts to rest the sort of conspiracy theory regarding -- I know these conspiracy theories go around, sir. I saw one the other day was based on the fact that we had mysteriously brought forward the anticipated date of the counter terrorist activity in order to coincide with the arrest and charge of Mulcaire and Goodman, implying presumably that this conspiracy not only embraced the Home Office and the Blair government, but the Americans, CIA, the Pakistani authorities and Al Qaeda the same. So I think it is important to just lay this sort of thing to rest.

  • That was one of the questions I was going to ask you but I think I'll strike it off my list now.

  • I don't provide a commentary on where I am in any of this, but you've gone through this exhaustively, Lord Reid. I understand exactly your position and I see how the documents fit together very clearly.

  • Thank you kindly, sir.

  • It's pointed out by another core participant to this Inquiry that you were given very favourable coverage in the Sun and the News of the World on the following dates. June 26, July 16, July 19 and August 11, 2006. The question really is: did you obtain that favourable coverage as a result of providing some kind of privileged access to Home Office announcements?

  • Right. Forgive me for being blunt in this, but part of my submission pointed out that newspapers do not just report the facts; they shape the facts, they select particular facts. They're very selective, so that they suit the prejudices.

    If I had chosen an illustration to put before you, Lord Leveson, of that type of selection, it would be this very question. I only got notice of it very recently and Googled this morning. Let me tell about the selectivity of this question. I have no idea whether it was placed by representatives of, say, the Guardian or someone, but let me just come back to you on it.

    First of all, the selection of this question picks two leaders from the Sun. It does not mention in the Sun that they ran an eight-week campaign to try and destroy me, describing me as the Ali G of the Labour Party, describing me as the man who'd lost his brain. Attacking me for going away for a weekend. So the selectivity of two leaders managed to miss out all of the areas where the Sun was critical against me.

    Secondly, it was selective -- and I think I provided you with some of those --

  • That slightly balances it up.

    Secondly, this morning I Googled other papers around that time to see whether the Sun was untypical of what was being said at the time, because of course they selected the Sun out of the rest of them. I haven't had time to give you this, but, for instance, if you look at some of the Mirror articles at the time:

    "With two-thirds of the Cabinet also away on holiday, it was left to Home Secretary John Reid and Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander to deal with the situation" -- bear with me if you would.

    "The man supposed to be in charge of the country, disgraced Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, found himself completely sidelined."

    And so on and so forth.

    If you look at the Daily Record, part of the Mirror Group as well around this time, it was pointing out the role that I had played and diminishing the role that Tony Blair and Prescott had played.

    If you look at the Mirror two days later:

    "Prezza in row over plot raps."

    If you look at the Telegraph:

    "Reid takes charge as Blair frets over flying back from Barbados."

    The point I'm tries to make here is that the selectivity of that question is an illustration of the premise on which it's based.

    The truth is, and this is my answer to your question, that at that time there were thousands of articles which were covering this. Many of them were kind enough to say that I'd handled this competently. Some, of course, in the wake of this, weren't. The Guardian got Tom Bower to do a hatchet job on my profile, the Mail did the same with Stephen Glover, but many of them were fair and many of them were also aware of the third item which was not mentioned in the question, which was the cruel baiting of the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott because it doesn't mention the context, although he's mentioned in those leaders that they gave you, he had just come out of a terrible period where his private life had been exposed to attack and ridicule.

    So my answer to this is: there was no particular slant on the Sun's story that wasn't represented anywhere else, with this exception, that I have no doubt that the animosity between the Sun and John Prescott was such that they would have elevated me to diminish John. Similarly, for six months of the next year, they diminished me to elevate Gordon Brown. That was their agenda. But it was also unfortunately the agenda of other newspapers as well.

  • So I think the answer to my question is no, you did not obtain favourable coverage as a result of providing any preferential access to the Sun or the News of the World?

  • That's obvious from what I said.

  • Right. Can we move on to some of the other questions that I've been asked to put.

    You were asked about Sarah's Law.

  • You were asked this question: how do you explain the close correlation of Home Office policy in the summer of 2006 with the campaigns and news agenda for the Sun and the News of the World, particularly regarding Sarah's Law? And linked to that is a number of questions about when the decision to introduce Sarah's Law was made.

  • I tell you when I took the decision to do something about it was years earlier, when I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I was given a file at the end of which was a form I was asked to sign to release a paedophile murderer who had murdered an 8-year-old girl in circumstances that I won't put before this inquiry, but are still very alive in my mind. And he was to be released back into the community, indeed I think the very area where that young victim's mother and sisters lived, and I argued for days -- and this is years before 2006 -- I argued for days with my officials saying, "I will not sign this release", and I was told I legally had to sign the release.

    I then said I wouldn't sign it because I hadn't made the decision, I had no power to make the decision, I won't take the responsibility of releasing this man back into the community because I knew what he had done and it was awful, too awful to describe.

    Eventually, I had to sign it, under the law, and from that time I had resolved that I would do what I could to protect potential victims of child abuse of that nature if I was ever in a position to do it.

    When I came to the Home Office, I was aware that there were measures that would try to prohibit paedophiles gaining access to youth groups, to Scouts, schools and to other groups, but there was no such protection for single mothers with a family who were very often the target of predatory paedophiles who ingratiated themselves with the mother.

    So my mind was made up before I entered the Home Office. The fact that any other group, any person like Sarah Payne or any other newspaper had reached the same conclusion was not a matter of convenience, I'm sure, in either party, but a matter of belief.

  • There are a number of other questions which I'm simply not going to put, sir.

    Can I then ask you to turn, please, back to your witness statement and the response to question 14 within that, which is page 6839. It's the last two pages of the statement itself.

  • You were asked here about a reported conversation between you -- can I just say I'll preface this by saying you referred to the fact that there was an eight-week campaign against you --

  • It was probably more than that. It was probably on and off for four months.

  • And you referred us to the articles at tab 22 and 23.

  • Which appeared in the Sun. But before that happened, you had a conversation with Rebekah Wade and I just want to take you through it, please.

  • You were asked to comment on a reported conversation between you and Rebekah Wade as she then was which appears in volume 2 of Chris Mullin's diary, 30 April 2009. He says this:

    "Lunch in the cafeteria where I was regaled by John Reid with an account of how as his star rose in the run-up to the man's retirement unpleasant stories about him began to appear in the Daily Mail and the Sun. Then came a call from Rebekah Wade, the then Sun editor, ostensibly about other matters, who started quizzing him about the coming leadership election at one point blurting out 'Why don't you withdraw then?' At this stage John hadn't declared any intention to run against Gordon and in the event he didn't. The implication was clear: the smears would stop if he let Gordon have a free run."

    You're basically asked to confirm whether that's factually accurate. Can you please tell us in your own words about that conversation?

  • Yes. The first thing, if you permit me to read what I have said in response in writing, is that the account in Chris Mullin's book is based on a much later conversation and written some years after the event itself, and therefore the style, language and inferences drawn are also of course his as the author of the piece and the details of his account are not completely accurate.

    However, I then say it is -- the accounts is based on a telephone conversation that did take place in January 2007. As the background to this, my relationship with the Sun had been somewhat fractious. Part of this is because right at the beginning of being Home Secretary I had been asked by the Sun to give them an exclusive interview in a profile and I had said no. I was then asked by the Mirror, and I said no to that as well. But the Mirror were rather cleverer or mischievous enough to say, well, would I have a photograph taken? And of course when the photographer turned up, he was accompanied by a reporter who claimed they were just on their way to another meeting together, and on the basis of a two-minute conversation then ran a two-page profile on, you know, Reid.

    As you can imagine, the Sun were not entirely happy with this, so for a period after this I had a few attacks levied against me in the Sun which is part of the non-selection I mentioned earlier on.

  • How do you know the Sun weren't happy? Did you have any contact from them?

  • Yes, because at 7 o'clock in the morning the Sun reporter phoned my special adviser to explain in Sun language that they were not happy that we had said we weren't doing any profiles, which was true, and had refused one to the Sun, which was true, and then he believed that we had done one for the Mirror. He obviously did not believe, nor would Rebekah Wade have believed, that actually the Mirror had pulled a fast one with us under the guise of a photograph.

    So it kind of got off on a rather fractious start.

    Then during the period of the liquid bomb plot, they, like some other publications, were kind to me in what they wrote about me. However, I knew all through this that on the big strategic question Mr Murdoch was for a long time a supporter of Gordon Brown to succeed Tony Blair. Never any question in anybody's mind about that.

    Anyway, after the liquid bomb plot and I suppose the preeminence of that and various other issues at the Home Office, and the departure of several colleagues from the Cabinet, I was speculated upon as a possible contender against Gordon for leadership.

    In the October of that year I had phoned several editors to tell them three things I intended to try and do about the shortage of prison places. In January I got a call from Rebekah, an unscheduled call from Rebekah Wade, Rebekah Brooks, as she now is, ostensibly to ask me about that. She asked me about prisons. She was also quite angry that we had given an exclusive to I think the Sunday Telegraph on the break-up of the Home Office, then at the end of it she brought up the subject of the leadership and asked me why I didn't withdraw my name from any potential public discussion or make it clear I wouldn't run against Gordon.

  • Did she explain why she was asking you that?

  • No, but to me it was pretty obvious, because the Murdoch press and particularly the Sun was going to back Gordon for leadership, and they would like to have as much clarity as possible, no doubt, before that. And there were one or two meddlesome priests to be dealt with, I suppose, in that direction.

    So I said to her that's a bit of a non sequitur from what we were talking about, and she basically said, "Well, it all looks a bit chaotic and wouldn't you be better to withdraw", and so on, and I again said no, and then she said, "Well, you know, you're aware that we can't support you in that?" and I said, "I'm well aware of that and long have been aware of it", and she made some comment like, "Well, it would be better for everyone if the position was clearer."

    Now, I didn't draw necessarily the inference that Chris Mullin drew from that, because it could have been a polite warning, it could have been just a conveyer of information: if you're running, we're not supporting it, whatever, but it is true that nevertheless four days later the Home Secretary has lost his brain campaign started in the Sun. And it ran for quite a period of time. I think they were still running bits of it up until May, even just after I had declared that I wouldn't be a candidate.

    So I don't necessarily think it was a form of intimidation. I think Rebekah Wade knew me well enough to know that I wasn't the type to be intimidated. In fact, I knew -- sometimes suspected editors would get in touch with me for the sake of a good argument.

    So if you put a benevolent interpretation on it, it would be that she was just making the position plain from the Murdoch press.

  • Those are all my questions, Lord Reid.

  • I have one question, and I've been thinking about what you knew and what you understood about that whole business back in August 2006 and what you'd picked up from the news, which clearly involved a suggestion that there was hacking in or around a Cabinet Minister.

  • I'd just be interested in your view whether it was inappropriate for a Home Secretary to say, "I'm not interested in the detail, but actually if people are able to get into mobiles of those who are in very high government positions", and any Cabinet Minister will be in that position, "I'd like to know that that's being bottomed."

    Now, would that be appropriate?

  • That would -- you know, I mean I would have assumed that if there had been knowledge of, well, there's another four dozen MPs and there are any number of other Cabinet Ministers and 400 names or whatever, that that would have been a reaction.

  • But even if there are not hundreds, would you have expected, simply because of what the police understood of that, that if there were questions about Cabinet ministers that would be brought to you or you would have to ask or what?

  • Well, as it -- there's two different questions. One, should I have been informed about the general operation up until 8 August? That's one question. The second is when I was told what was happening, which was basically firstly through the media and then a conversation with the Met Commissioner.

  • I was informed by the Met Commissioner to the best of my recollection and I'm trying to be careful about the name here --

  • -- which is why I've saved it --

  • Which is why I have always said "not the DPM". I was told it was suspected that, and if that proved to be the case, he personally would contact --

  • Yes, and obviously all means would be put into effect to try and make sure that the range of people who might be in such a target area would be protected, which is presumably why Commander Loughborough was writing to the TPU and they were thinking -- I think part of that exchange is, "What do we do now? How do we better protect people?"

  • I see. So you were getting some reassurance from the police that if anything was to come of any of this, then it would be bottomed and they would be told. Would that be fair?

  • Yes. And the one specific case that was mentioned to me, I think I was told -- and in fact I think it's repeated also in Richard Riley's note -- that the Met Commissioner would tell this person individually.

  • There was apparently -- and somebody outside of here has asked me recently: did I know about the victims' information scheme that was introduced? And the answer to that is no. So there was apparently -- that was another operational thing which I wasn't particularly informed.

  • No, I have no further questions, but I do have one procedure --

  • With your permission, there's three questions I'd like to ask Lord Reid. May I do so?

  • Sorry, I should know this, but would you be kind enough --

  • Mr Garnham acts for the Metropolitan Police.

  • You said on a number of occasions in answer to questions you were asked earlier that the Riley note didn't say anything that wasn't already in the public domain. The one respect in which it did say something that wasn't in the public domain is it identified that Cabinet Minister.

  • No, it identified the friend of a Cabinet Minister.

  • If you look behind your tab 8, that's the 9 August Richard Riley memo?

  • His second paragraph ends:

    "The Commissioner mentioned [and the name is blacked out and I'm not going to say it]. If this proved to be the case the Commissioner would personally inform that person."

    And that was something that wasn't in the public domain.

  • The name wasn't in the public domain, and I didn't want to dwell on it, sir, because it still isn't in the public domain.

  • And it's not in the public domain at the request of the person involved.

  • Quite so, that's why I'm not identifying it.

  • Yes, that's why I think we were trying not to draw attention to that.

  • Because that's the one respect in which this document contained something that wasn't in the public domain.

  • That's what I said in my written statement.

  • I said in my written statement -- although the fact that there was either a Cabinet Minister or a friend of a Cabinet Minister suspected was in the public domain.

  • Second question: the accepted route, is this right, for communication on security and terrorist matters, the subject matter of Peter Clarke's work, to the Home Office was via the TPU, wasn't it?

  • No, not necessarily.

  • He said that that was how he would normally contact the Home Office. Would that not be right?

  • Not necessarily. It depended on the nature of -- I mean, if Peter Clarke or Andy Hayman or anybody else wished to send me an urgent note because they'd just discovered that there was a terrorist plot about to blow up this building, he wouldn't go through the TPU. He would send it to me.

  • So on other occasions he might go to the TPU, you know, on routine matters, and the note that was sent was a fairly routine matter of the technology. That's the point I was making. It was -- you haven't asked for this, but just for your reassurance, I say it again: it wasn't a complaint that Loughborough was contacting TPU or that everyone was involved in something else. It was just to set the record straight.

  • Thank you. Yes, I understand that. Third and final question, please, Lord Reid. Your tab 20, I think, which is the email of 11 August 2006, to Peter Loughborough from Tim Warren. Do you have that?

  • Second paragraph of that reads:

    "Good news, I can confirm there is an organisation within TH ..."

    Is that Thames House?

  • Is that Thames House, from the context.

    "... called NICE. They are responsible for advising government and countering the threat posed by attacks on communication information structures and services used by HMG in British interests. We are led to believe that this group already has contact at the appropriate level with the telephone companies and will be the best route by which to proceed initially. We can and will instigate this contact."

    Do you know whether that was done by Tim Warren's unit?

  • Thank you very much. Thank you, sir.

  • Thank you. I think we can release Lord Reid unless you have more questions.

  • No. Thank you very much, and I repeat my thanks for detail which you've obviously gone into for this incident. Thank you.

  • Thank you very much, and thank you.

  • There is a read-in request. We asked that a letter from Collyer-Bristow dated 9 May in response to a letter from Mrs Taylor dated 27 January be read into the record of the Inquiry. It's a letter written by Mr Taylor's wife. I have a copy, if you'd like to see it.

  • I can assist with this, sir. It concerns Mr Lewis's evidence. Mrs Taylor wrote in to the Inquiry about Mr Lewis's evidence and this is a response to that letter. (Pause)

  • Thank you very much. Tomorrow morning.

  • (The hearing adjourned until 10 o'clock the following day)