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

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.

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