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

There had been a number of occasions, two of which I mentioned in this letter, when I think there had been briefing from people close either to the then chancellor or to the Prime Minister that were totally dishonest and untrue and potentially damaging. The first of them was in 2005, when I got off a plane from overseas to find banner headlines saying that Norman Lamont and I were blocking the publication of papers relating to Black Wednesday. It was utterly and totally untrue. Nobody had asked us to release papers on Black Wednesday and had we been asked, since the papers showed a much better situation than many people had reported, we would have been quite in favour of it.

It was said for years that we lost 16 billion on Black Wednesday. Actually, the answer is it wasn't even a fraction -- it was a tiny fraction of that. So we had no reason to object to the publication of those papers. But for reasons of their own, the then chancellor's advisers had briefed the press that that's what we were doing. Both Mr Lamont and I were very angry and we complained at that time. We put out a statement immediately and we complained at that time to the Cabinet Secretary.

Then immediately prior to the letter, there were stories put about that the reason Mr Mugabe had not had his knighthood withdrawn was because of representations from me saying Mr Mugabe's knighthood should not be withdrawn, and not only that but I had entered into some fierce row with David Cameron about it. Utterly and totally untrue.

On this occasion, we were given by -- my office was given, by a reporter, the name of the person who had rung around and spread that particular story, and it was one of the advisers working for the then Prime Minister, and it was on that occasion that I wrote to the Prime Minister, making it absolutely clear to him that if anything of this sort happened again in the future, I would go public immediately and I would name the adviser concerned and I would take the matter further, and that is the letter that you have from me to Gus O'Donnell dated 31 June.

I regarded the behaviour that Norman Lamont and I, in the first instance, and me in the second, had suffered as being absolutely dishonest and dishonourable, and I suppose we're big enough to take it but it seemed to me from what I heard it was happening to lots of other people as well in terms of this direct briefing against people, and I thought it was time that there should be no doubt that the Prime Minister knew about it. So I asked the Cabinet -- I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary and suggested to him that he showed my letter to the Prime Minister so that he could take the necessary action to ensure it did not happen again.

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