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Police State Britain: Tory MP Damian Green's Crime Was To Reveal Truths Labour Didn't
Police state Britain: MPs want protection after arrest of Tory for telling truths Labour didn't want you to know
By Benedict Brogan, James Chapman and Stephen Wright
Last updated at 10:09 AM on 29th November 2008
Comments (101) Add to My Stories MPs demanded protection from a 'police state' last night after the heavy-handed arrest of a Tory frontbencher shocked Westminster.
Extraordinary details of four simultaneous raids on immigration spokesman Damian Green's homes and offices raised urgent questions about the independence of Parliament.
The Oxford-educated father of two girls, who denies any wrongdoing, was fingerprinted and required to give a DNA sample before being released on bail after nine hours.
A police officer removes items from Damian Green's constituency office in Bethersden, Kent, after his arrest
Police seized his mobile phone, his BlackBerry, bank statements, computers containing confidential details of constituents, and were only prevented from carrying off legal documents by his wife, a barrister. Officers even leafed through the couple's love letters.
The tactics of Scotland Yard investigating a series of leaks that had no bearing on national security and served only to embarrass Labour were compared to those used in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.
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Last night, the row between police and Parliament was turning into a political crisis for Gordon Brown, who faced accusations of standing by while the rights of MPs were being trampled.
Ministers struggled to dispel suspicions that they knew in advance about the plan to arrest Mr Green, amid MPs' fears that the case marked another step towards the politicisation of the police.
Damian Green leaves his home in Ealing, West London, having received bail after nine hours in police custody
The Tories issued a series of questions about the role of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.
Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said there were huge question marks over the claim that Mr Brown and Miss Smith had not been informed the arrest was about to take place.
He said: 'It would be an astounding breakdown in the system of governance, and the linchpin doctrine of Ministerial responsibility, if Ministers were not, at the bare minimum, kept informed.'
MPs also demanded assurances from Speaker Michael Martin that he would defend their interests after it emerged that he authorised an unprecedented police search of Mr Green's office on Commons property. One called on Mr Martin to quit.
Publicly, the Prime Minister said only that his chief objective was to uphold the independence of the police.
But his supporters accused the Tories of 'playing politics' with a routine police matter, and even suggested the Yard had undisclosed reasons to seize Mr Green.
Thursday's raids, involving some 20 officers, were carried out on Mr Green's homes in west London and Kent, and his Commons and constituency offices.
The MP was detained in Kent on suspicion of 'conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office' and taken to London by Yard detectives ten days after a Home Office official was arrested on suspicion of leaking sensitive documents.
Green's wife, Alicia Collinson, at their home after her husband's arrest
Police are investigating Mr Green's role in four leaks to the media over the past year - two of them to the Mail - that embarrassed the Home Office.
The operation was authorised by Met Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer.
The Crown Prosecution Service was also consulted.
Sources said Mr Green is suspected of actively seeking leaked information, not just receiving it.
Met Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, who has effectively been running the Met since Sir Ian Blair announced his resignation two months ago, was briefed by Mr Quick in advance.
Sir Ian, who officially stepped down yesterday, was not aware of the operation.
In the 30 minutes leading up to the raids, Sir Paul rang London Mayor Boris Johnson and Tory leader David Cameron.
He also notified Sir David Normington, the Home Office permanent secretary, who claimed he deliberately did not tell Home Secretary Jacqui Smith until after the arrest. The news was relayed to Mr Brown about an hour later.
By last night, Mr Green's ordeal had provoked outrage across the political spectrum, with all parties rallying to his defence.
Tory MPs threatened to disrupt Wednesday's Queen's Speech debate. Veteran former Labour MP Tony Benn said the arrest of an MP amounted to a contempt of Parliament. 'Once the police can interfere with Parliament, we are into the police state,' he said.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: 'This is something you might expect from a tin-pot dictatorship, not in a modern democracy.'
Gordon Brown insists ministers were not told in advance of the raids on Green's home and office, pictured
Tory MPs contrasted the case with that of leaks of sensitive information to BBC business editor Robert Peston.
They raised suspicions that a 'mole' inside Downing Street or the Treasury had passed Mr Peston a string of market-moving banking 'scoops'.
Former Tory leader Michael Howard pointed to Mr Brown's reputation for obtaining Government leaks when he was an Opposition MP.
'If this approach had been in place when Gordon Brown was in opposition, he'd have spent half his time under arrest,' he said.
Miss Smith denied that ministers had been involved in any way in the arrest of Mr Green.
Infinite Love is the only Truth, everything else is Illusion...