This article titled “Damian Green qualifies for £17,000 pay-off, Cabinet Office confirms – Politics live” was written by Andrew Sparrow (now) and Claire Phipps (earlier), for theguardian.com on Thursday 21st December 2017 19.46 Asia/Kolkata
The press conference is starting now.
It is going to begin with the signing of a defence cooperation treaty.
UPDATE: This is from the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn.
Here are two articles on Damian Green worth reading.
In some ways Mr Green was a classic second-division politician, sensible and reliable but never a man to make the weather. He liked to present himself as the solid embodiment of middle-class common sense, which might be one reason why he got on so well with Mrs May. He also specialised in pouring oil on troubled waters. But in other ways he was more interesting. He was brought up in a council house in South Wales and nevertheless won a place at Balliol College, Oxford. He remained on the left wing of the Conservative Party through thick and thin, and even contemplated leaving the party in the early 1980s for the breakaway Social Democrats, because he worried that Margaret Thatcher might tear the country apart. This columnist, though a few years younger than Mr Green, remembers seeing him in Balliol College Junior Common Room looking and sounding almost the same as he does today, a member of that strange breed of politicians, of which William Hague is the archetype, who arrive at university fully formed as middle-aged fogies.
When Mrs May became PM last year she ripped out all the inner wiring that had made the Cameron Government function — getting rid of virtually the whole Downing Street staff and Cabinet Office ministerial team, for no other apparent reason other than that her own advisers, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, didn’t much like them.
All the lessons that had been learnt over the previous six years were lost. Unsurprisingly, the result was paralysis — and no real domestic achievements. It was an approach that culminated in the most disastrous manifesto in modern UK history. In the election aftermath, the Cabinet forced Mrs May to fire her advisers and Mr Green was hired to pick up the pieces. Although a university contemporary, he was not especially close to her. But as a rational, calming voice at the centre Mr Green was welcomed by an exasperated Civil Service. Now that he’s gone there is no one around Mrs May with any enduring bonds of loyalty to her — the new, competent team recruited to No 10 hardly knew her at all before they got the call-up.
Theresa May’s press conference in Poland
Theresa May is about to hold a press conference in Poland.
There is a live feed here.
Green qualifies for ministerial pay-off worth almost £17,000, Cabinet Office confirms
Despite being effectively sacked, Damian Green will receive a pay-off of nearly £17,000, the Cabinet Office has confirmed.
Under the legislation which governs these things, the Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries Act 1991, all minister who lose their jobs and don’t get a new post within three weeks – it seems pretty likely Green will not – receive three months of salary as a severance payment.
Green was entitled to a ministerial salary of £69,844, but under a voluntary pay cap scheme for ministers, received £67,505. A quarter of that will net him £16,876.25.
This system is in effect for all ministers, no matter whether they resign, are sacked or reshuffled. The one caveat is that they must be under 65. Green is 61, but when Michael Fallon stepped down as defence secretary he had recently turned 65, so got nothing.
Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, has put out this statement about the Metropolitan police’s decision to refer the Green case to her. (See 12.39pm.) She said:
We can confirm that we have received a referral from the Metropolitan police service that explains their belief that offences under the Data Protection Act 1998 have been committed by former MPS officers.
As the UK’s data protection regulator, we’ll be looking at whether individuals acted unlawfully by retaining or disclosing personal data.
These are serious allegations and we are investigating to determine whether the law has been broken and what further action is necessary including potential criminal prosecution.
Under the Data Protection Act, anyone who is prosecuted and found guilty could face an unlimited fine.
In Edinburgh there were emotional scenes at the final first minister’s questions of the year as Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie spoke about the fire at Cameron House Hotel in her constituency, which killed a young couple and injured several others earlier this week.
Fighting back tears, Baillie called on the first minister to ensure that lessons are learnt once the investigation into the fire is completed, or if a need to enhance building standards regulations becomes apparent.
A young couple on a winter break from London, Simon Midgley and Richard Dyson, died as the fire ravaged the Loch Lomond-side resort.
Clearly also moved by the tragedy, Sturgeon conveyed her deep condolences the families of the young men who died, and asked the chamber to join with her sending their thanks to the emergency services involved. She added the investigation should be allowed to run its course but gave her assurance that any lessons would be fully applied.
Elsewhere, Sturgeon praised former SNP cabinet minister Richard Lochhead’s tireless campaign against inflated delivery charges for his Highland constituents. Lochhead has recently scored some significant successes with his Rip-off Surcharge campaign, which estimates that online shoppers in Scotland pay an additional £36.3million in delivery charges than the rest of the UK every year. The regulation of parcel pricing is reserved to Westminster, and UK ministers last week agreed to review the system. Sturgeon said that she hoped that “this is the last Christmas for consumers in the north of Scotland to be so blatantly ripped off in this unacceptable way.”
Green say he has been ‘overwhelmed’ by support he has received since sacking
Damian Green has posted a tweet saying that he has been “overwhelmed” by the support he has received from friends, colleagues and constituents since he was sacked.
Lords analysis of government Brexit reports says they imply business wants to soften Brexit
The government’s Brexit reports have been published by the Commons Brexit committee. But the committee, which has a narrow Tory/DUP majority, decided to leave out the “sector views” sections, which cover what firms and trade bodies are saying about Brexit, and it has not said much about what the reports actually say.
But the reports were also sent to the House of Lords EU committee. And that committee, which does not have a Conservative majority, has delivered a verdict of sorts on the reports.
It comes in the form of an open letter (pdf) to David Davis, the Brexit secretary, from Lord Jay of Ewelme, the former head of the Foreign Office who is now acting chair of the committee. The letter says the committee staff have reviewed all 850 pages in their entirety and it makes the following points.
- Davis should publish the reports in full, including the “sector views” sections, Jay says. Jay says there is nothing in the reports that is “negotiation sensitive” and that most of the stakeholder views material (the “sector views” stuff that has been held back by the Commons committee) is material “already in the public domain, including in committee inquiries and reports. He says:
In light of these findings, we can see no reason why the sectoral analyses should not be published in full – they pose no risk to the UK’s negotiating position, and making them publicly available would, in our view, only promote an informed public debate on the options for Brexit. We understand that the House of Commons exiting the EU committee has decided to publish a redacted version of the documents. Nevertheless, we would urge you to publish them in full.
- The reports show there is a general desire amongst industry to “minimise disruption and uncertainty”, Jay says. In other words, the reports do show there is a general desire amongst business and industry to soften Brexit, the committee’s analysis suggests. Jay says:
Views on particular Brexit options, such as single market membership, differ across sectors, but in most cases there is a wish to minimise disruption and uncertainty.
A number of themes recur in the views of stakeholders. These include: access to EU labour; the minimisation of tariffs and regulatory barriers to trade; data sharing; mutual recognition of qualifications; access to cross-border services; and the importance of EU R&D funding.
- The reports are “inconsistent in approach” and their representation of stakeholder views is “patchy”, Jay says. There is also “little over-arching analysis” and “no conclusions are drawn with regard to the UK’s future relationship with the EU”.
Here is more on the government Brexit reports.
From the Labour MP Jo Stevens
From the Labour MP Seema Malhotra
From HuffPost’s Paul Waugh
Met asks information commissioner to investigate disclosure of confidential Green information
Here is the statement from the Metropolitan police about the decision to ask the information commissioner to investigate the release of private police information about what was found on Damian Green’s computer in a police raid. The Met said:
The Metropolitan police service has asked the information commissioner’s cffice (ICO) to investigate the apparent disclosure to the media of confidential material gathered during a police investigation in 2008 by two former officers.
An ex-assistant commissioner and ex-detective constable have both made a number of disclosures to the media, passing on information that they were privy to as part of a police investigation. Due to the length of time that has passed since both officers left the MPS, legal advice was sought regarding the most appropriate action to take.
In this instance it was determined that the most appropriate course of action was to make a referral to the ICO to carry out a further investigation in relation to potential Data Protection Act offences.
The MPS is clear that confidential information gathered during any police inquiry should remain confidential. That is an enduring confidentiality regardless of whether an officer leaves the service.
Gareth Bacon, leader of the Conservative group on the London assembly, has welcomed the news. In a statement he said:
I am pleased to see the Met is taking seriously what appears to have been a gross abuse of trust from former police officers.
If the general public is to have future confidence in the force’s ability to protect sensitive information, this case must be dealt with robustly.
I welcome the commissioner’s strong words this morning and the referral to the IC.
An investigation into allegations about the private life of Labour MP Keith Vaz has been suspended by the House of Commons sleaze watchdog “for medical reasons”, the Press Association reports. The halting of the probe was revealed in an update of the list of ongoing inquiries on the parliamentary commissioner for standards’ website, and her office did not give any more details. In 2016, the Leicester East MP issued a public apology to his wife and children, and quit as chairman of the Commons home affairs Committee, following reports in the Sunday Mirror that he paid two male escorts for their services. The PA story goes on:
The probe by the standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson will determine whether Vaz was guilty of a conflict of interest as he headed the home affairs committee’s review of vice laws at the time of the allegations regarding male escorts.
The watchdog was also looking into whether the former Europe minister has caused “significant damage” to the reputation of parliament.
Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, has also criticised the government for the lack of analysis in the Brexit reports.
Here is Tom Brake, the Lib Dem Brexit spokesman, on the publication of the government’s secret Brexit reports.
This is the biggest case of the dog ate my homework the world has ever seen.
We’ve been given binders of old information, extracts from Wikipedia, and a few choice quotes, and yet nothing at all on how Brexit will hit each sector.
Now the government’s woeful failure to prepare for Brexit has been laid bare in front of the whole country. The mess this government are making of negotiations shows why the people must be given the opportunity to exit from Brexit.
On Twitter, Brake also argued that if Damian Green deserves the sack, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, should do too.
Here is some more reaction to the publication of the secret government Brexit reports. Open Britain, which is campaigning for a soft Brexit, has put out this statement from the Labour MP Pat McFadden.
The knots the government has tied itself in over publication of these reports says more about the state of politics and the government’s paranoid state of mind than it does about Brexit. There is little or nothing in them that couldn’t be learned from the annual reports of different trade bodies yet we were asked to believe that somehow revealing how many cars were made in Britain every year was an act of national treachery.
The government’s most ardent supporters on the select committee voted not to reveal the sections which showed the industry views of Brexit and what they hoped the outcome of the talks would be. You have to wonder what they have to fear.
This whole saga of whether or not there were impact assessments or sectoral studies, and what the difference between them may or may not be, has revealed that breezy busking won’t cut it when people’s jobs and livelihoods are on the line. Winging it should not be a matter of principle. The best way through this is to know as much as we can and put jobs and prosperity before the ideology that has driven much of the positioning up until now.
And this is from Eloise Todd, chief executive of Best for Britain, which is campaigning to keep open the option of reversing Brexit. She said:
These reports are the most useless and shoddy piece of work a government department has ever produced. Even the Iraq Dodgy Dossier had some useful information in it.
These are a shoddy mess that a sixteen year old wouldn’t be proud of. It is a masterclass in copy and paste.
David Davis has been shown up for the charlatan he is. He needs to consider his position.
This is from Sky’s Jason Farrell, who is with Theresa May on the trip to Poland.
Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police commissioner, has told the London assembly that the release of private police information about what was on Damian Green’s computer has been referred to the information commissioner, LBC’s Theo Usherwood reports.
Here are some tweets from journalists and specialists who have been looking at the government’s Brexit reports.
From the Guardian’s Dan Roberts
From the Centre for European Reform’s John Springford
From the New Local Government Network’s Adam Lent
From the BBC’s Ross Hawkins
From MailOnline’s Tim Sculthorpe
But there is one dissenting voice. These are from the Institute for Government’s Jill Rutter.
At the regular Number 10 lobby briefing we had a few details confirmed about the process behind Damian Green’s departure.
Theresa May’s spokesman said the report was first received by May on Monday, and she then passed the findings to Sir Alex Allan, the former senior civil servant who is now her adviser on ministerial appointments.
Alex Allan reported back to the prime minister yesterday to say that he agreed with the conclusions and the fact that there had been breaches of the ministerial code, the spokesman said.
On a replacement for Green, he said there was unlikely to be an announcement before parliament goes into recess later today, meaning it will presumably happen in the New Year.
No cabinet committees which would have been chaired by Green are due to meet before mid-January, he added.
On the other investigation into a minister over alleged inappropriate behaviour, about trade minister Mark Garnier, there is no news as to when that might come.
“Once we are in a position to give you the findings, we’ll do so,” the spokesman said.
A very quick skim through the Brexit reports suggests their news value is minimal, if not non-existent.
They all seem to start with a blurb that includes this paragraph.
As the government has already made clear, it is not the case that 58 sectoral impact assessments exist. The government’s sectoral analysis is a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum. This report brings together information about the sector in a way that is accessible and informative. Some reports aggregate some sectors in order to either avoid repetition of information or because of the strong interlinkages between some of these sectors.
Each report then summarises the size and nature of a sector of the economy, including reference to its relationship with EU regulation. But there does not seem to be any reference to the potential difficulties posed by Brexit, and in each document the section entitled “sector views”, which presumably says what relevant firms and trade bodies are demanding from the government post Brexit, has been redacted by the committee.
Brexit committee publishes government’s secret Brexit sectoral analysis reports
The Brexit select committee has just published most of the government’s secret Brexit reports. They were supplied to the committee after the Commons voted for Brexit impact reports to be published, although the government subsequently said that proper impact reports did not exist. These are described as sectoral analysis reports instead.
The Brexit committee has published 39 of them. You can read them all here.
But you may well have better things to do. As Jessica Elgot reported earlier this month, MPs and peers who have read the documents have not been impressed.
Theresa May has been meeting the new Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, in Warsaw.
ITV’s political editor, Robert Peston, has written a good blog about the sacking of Damian Green on his Facebook page. Earlier this month he reported, on the basis of what he was told by his sources, that Green would survive. In the blog he explains what changed.
I understand that at the time, the keeper of the government’s conscience, Sue Gray of the Cabinet Office, had only one example of Green making a misleading press statement about what he knew about the computer porn. And just one inaccurate statement could have been seen as an accident.
Green was expected by the prime minister to cling on because this one example of misleading the press could be seen as cock-up not conspiracy.
But after I reported that Green was likely to survive, Gray was made aware of a second similar statement – and that established the lethal pattern of Green being systematically economical with the truth.
Which sealed his fate.
Peston also argues that the departure of Green changes the balance of power in Theresa May’s administration.
Whitehall, and in particularly the cabinet secretary, Heywood, have reasserted their authority, having for months looked like affection-starved poodles.
Green’s exit also shines a new light on the political troika – the chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, the former chief whip and now defence secretary Gavin Williamson, and the current chief whip Julian Smith – who live and breathe to serve HER.
They did not die in a ditch to save Green. In fact their colleagues tell me they actively want to see the back of what they see as the “old men” like Green in the cabinet, so that the government can be remade in their “new Tory generation” image.
This is from ITV’s Joe Pike.
Last month ICM did some polling for the Guardian to find out what people think of various types of sexual misconduct that MPs have been accused of. We weren’t asking about Damian Green, or any other individuals, and of course Green denies watching pornography on his office computer or propositioning Kate Maltby. But the findings were interesting because they show how seriously people take these matters. Voters are more unforgiving than some people might expect.
I wrote the findings up here. And Britain Elects helpfully turned them into a graphic.
Theresa May not replace Damian Green as first secretary of state, the BBC reports.
Having a first secretary of state is very much optional for a prime minister. As Wikipedia points out, it’s a title that for many years was not used. Margaret Thatcher never had one, and when May first became prime minister she felt about to do without one. There are plenty of other people who can stand in for the prime minister if necessary at PMQs; in the past it used to be a job for the leader of the Commons.
Theresa May is not expecting to announce a replacement for Green until after parliament returns in January, a government source said.
The prime minister flew out this morning to Warsaw this morning, away from the crisis which forced her to sack her deputy, but has landed in Poland in the midst of another storm.
Her visit, with five senior cabinet ministers, comes less than 24 hours after an unprecedented decision by the EU to censure Poland for a “serious breach” of its values.
Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd, Boris Johnson, Gavin Williamson and Greg Clark are all meeting their counterparts in Poland for a trip aimed at wooing the Polish government seen as key allies in post-Brexit trade talks, given their desire to retain close security cooperation.
The timing is awkward so soon after the EU decision. Downing Street has said May will raise concerns about potential for political interference in the judiciary by Poland’s hard-line conservative government.
In Warsaw, May will announce a new joint UK-Poland treaty on defence and security cooperation, only the second such treaty the UK has signed, after one with France. The governments will also jointly launch UK-funded offensives to combat alleged Russian state-sponsored “disinformation”. Johnson is set to fly on to Moscow after his meetings in Warsaw.
Downing Street said the new defence partnership expected to be announced on Thursday would deepen ties that would build on the deployment of British troops to the Polish-Russian border.
May will announce £5m of UK funds to build joint capacity to detect and counter the spread of Russian information operations, some of which will fund Belsat, a Polish-funded TV channel for Belarusians.
A government source said future trade talks would also be on the agenda when ministers meet their counterparts, with the Polish government also likely to raise the future status of incoming EU migrants.
May is first set to meet her Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki at the Belvedere Palace in Warsaw. Williamson and his counterpart are expected to sign the defence treaty mid-morning, followed by a press conference with May and Morawiecki.
During her whistle-stop trip, May is also set to meet British troops and Polish world war two veterans.
The women’s equality party thinks Damian Green and Michael Fallon should both resign as MPs because of their conduct towards women. In a statement its leader Sophie Walker said:
That Damian Green regrets being asked to quit, despite accepting that he breached the ministerial code, shows how many lessons he still has to learn about taking responsibility for his conduct. If he is not suitable to be minister because of his actions then he is not suitable to be an MP. It is bizarre that both he and Michael Fallon, who also resigned from cabinet, think they retain legitimacy to stay on in parliament. That decision should be given to their constituents, with a proper system of recall introduced so that they can decide whether these men should still be representing them.
After being accused of sexual misconduct, Fallon resigned as defence secretary saying his behaviour in the past had “fallen below the high standards” expected, although he did not give details. Green denied making sexual advances towards the Tory activist who accused him of propositioning her, although in his resignation letter he admitted he had made her feel “uncomfortable” and apologised.
The former Labour MP Andy Sawford is one of various people on Twitter who have been making this point about the downfall of Damian Green.
But Sean Kemp, a former Lib Dem spin doctor, points to the obvious flaw in this thesis.
Government Brexit reports to be published by select committee today
I’m hearing that Brexit select committee will today publish the bulk of the “impact assessments” – or whatever the government would like to call them- today. But they are withholding parts of the documents after a committee disagreement.
The Labour MP Jess Phillips, a prominent campaigner on behalf of the victims of sexual harassment, told Sky News that she welcomed the decision to sack Damian Green. But she said she thought the inquiry took “longer than it needed to”. And she said she thought that the conclusions of the inquiry meant that Green might avoid being investigated by the new body parliament is setting up in the light of the sexual harassment scandal. She said:
The fact that he left for lying, essentially, about pornography on his computer does seem to be the slight get-out to stop potentially the new independent system in parliament that is going to be set up looking into this further. It does seem they are trying to protect him from any future claims of sexual harassment.
Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, will be making a statement to MPs about progress in setting up the new complaints process later.
Jeremy Hunt’s Today interview – Summary
Here are the main points from Jeremy Hunt’s Today interview.
- Hunt, the health secretary, confirmed that Damian Green had been sacked because he “lied”. Asked if Green was “sacked”, Hunt said: “Yes, I think that is clear, sadly from the letters that were exchanged.” And, asked if Green “lied”, Hunt replied:
He lied on a particular incident, yes. I think lots of people who understand the context would appreciated why that might have happened. But that doesn’t make it any more acceptable. And I think what this shows is that in our democracy we hold cabinet ministers to the very highest standards of conduct, rightly. But I think we should remember that those are standards that would probably not apply in many other countries. And those standards apply even to cabinet ministers who are the most senior, as he was.
- Hunt expressed concerns about the behaviour of the police in this episode. He said:
I think if you look at what happened, some of the actions, particularly of a retired police officer, don’t sit comfortably in a democracy, and Theresa May made very clear in her letter that she was very uncomfortable with what had happened and that she was pleased that Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police commissioner, also felt that which is why an investigation is happening.
- He praised May as “someone of the most extraordinary resilience in very, very challenging circumstances”.
- He expressed regret about Green’s departure, describing him as “an outstanding public servant who did an extraordinary job in the various ministerial posts that he did”.
Tim Shipman, the Sunday Times’s political editor, thinks Hunt did his own career prospects no harm at all with his interview.
UPDATE: Sir Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s communications chief, was also impressed by the Hunt interview.
Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s communications chief when Blair was prime minister, says that if Theresa May wants to sack cabinet ministers who have told lies, other culprits spring to mind …
The interview now turns to the NHS, and maternity services.
Hunt says mistakes happen. It is important for the NHS to learn from them.
Q: Does the NHS need more resources?
It is a real mistake to say this is principally about money.
He says there have been improvements.
One issue is litigation; doctors are worried about being sued.
He says the professionals think they can make a massive improvement in maternity safety with the resources they have.
Q: Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, asked for £4bn in the budget and did not get it. You probably want more money. Why don’t you ask for more money?
Hunt says he is always asked about this. The discussion today is different to the discussion five years ago. Five years ago the budget was frozen. Now the discussion is about how it spends extra money.
In the last three years NHS spending has gone up by £8bn. That is because the economy is growing, generating more tax revenue.
Q: You once said health was your last big job in politics. Are you sure? There is now a vacancy at the very top. It would suit someone calm, someone like you who voted remain but now backs leave.
Hunt says his job is very rewarding. “I’m a health man, full stop,” he says.
And that’s it.
Q: May has lost the people close to her. Who are her close advisers now?
Hunt says leadership is lonely. Despite the most incredible pressure, May has carried on. She has taken big decisions, and made big progress. What is emerging is “someone of the most extraordinary resilience in very, very challenging circumstances”.
He says people will be assured that someone like that is there leading the country.
Hunt says we need to get to the bottom of the police’s role.
Q: People will say this was not the fault of the police. They will say this happened because Green made a sexual advance to a young woman. Shouldn’t Green have been sacked or suspended then?
Hunt says a tough prime minister is a fair prime minister. That is why May ordered an inquiry.
Q: Was May worried that other allegations would emerge?
Hunt says everyone is entitled to due process.
Q: In other lines of work someone under suspicion would be suspended.
Hunt says Robinson is trying to castigate Green for allegations that have not been proven.
Everyone has a right to a fair hearing, he says.
Jeremy Hunt says Green was sacked because he ‘lied’
Good morning. I’m Andrew Sparrow, taking over from Claire.
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is being interview on Today now by Nick Robinson.
Robinson says Damian Green was just one of two MPs invited to Theresa May’s 60th birthday party.
Q: Can you admit Green was sacked?
Hunt says that is correct. He breached the ministerial code.
Q: He lied?
He lied on a particular incident, yes.
Hunt says people will understand the context. But that does not make it acceptable. He says cabinet ministers are held to a high standard.
Q: Are you saying it is understanding he lied.
Hunt says Green was an outstanding public servant.
But people get pushed into a situation where they say things they don’t mean.
Q: May did not want him to go.
No, says Hunt. He says Green was valued by MPs on all sides of the House.
I’m now handing over the live blog to Andrew Sparrow, who’ll bring you Jeremy Hunt’s Today programme interview, more Green fallout and the rest of the day’s politics news.
Thanks for reading and for the comments and tweets.
And for all those commenters asking when David Davis will be handing in his resignation letter: don’t hold your breath.
There has been speculation about whether the Brexit secretary, David Davis, could follow Green out of the door, given his previous threat to quit if his colleague were forced out.
However, the threat was caveated carefully:
The Brexit secretary let it be known that he would resign in protest were Green to be forced out solely on the basis of allegations by former Met officers, although he accepted that other factors could lead to Green having to quit as first secretary of state.
And Davis appears to have let it be known on Wednesday night that he was going nowhere.
What Green said that was ‘inaccurate and misleading’
And here are those two statements made by Green last month that the inquiry judged were “inaccurate and misleading” and breached the ministerial code – as well as Green’s admission yesterday that they were misleading.
The police have never suggested to me that improper material was found on my parliamentary computer, nor did I have a ‘private’ computer, as has been claimed. The allegations about the material and computer, now nine years old, are false, disreputable political smears from a discredited police officer acting in flagrant breach of his duty to keep the details of police investigations confidential, and amount to little more than an unscrupulous character assassination.
I reiterate that no allegations about the presence of improper material on my parliamentary computers have ever been put to me or to the parliamentary authorities by the police. I can only assume that they are being made now, nine years later, for ulterior motives.
I accept that I should have been clear in my press statements that police lawyers talked to my lawyers in 2008 about the pornography on the computers, and that the police raised it with me in a subsequent phone call in 2013. I apologise that my statements were misleading on this point.
Summary of inquiry findings against Damian Green
For those readers who weren’t awake for the politics live blog’s early start this morning, a reminder of the key findings from the inquiry, issued by the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood. (The bolding is mine.)
The investigation has concluded:
- that Mr Green’s conduct as a minister has generally been both professional and proper;
- that with competing and contradictory accounts of what were private meetings, it is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion on the appropriateness of Mr Green’s behaviour with Kate Maltby in 2015, though the investigation found Ms Maltby’s account to be plausible;
- that Mr Green’s statements of 4 and 11 November, which suggested that he was not aware that indecent material was found on parliamentary computers in his office, were inaccurate and misleading, as the Metropolitan police service had previously informed him of the existence of this material. These statements therefore fall short of the honesty requirement of the Seven Principles of Public Life and constitute breaches of the ministerial code. Mr Green accepts this.
It goes on:
The cabinet office investigation has not looked into the 2008 police investigation itself. That is a matter for the police, not for the cabinet office; and in any event has no bearing on Mr Green’s ability or conduct as first secretary of state.
Mr Green continues to deny that he viewed the pornography found on his parliamentary computers and the investigation reaches no conclusion on this matter.
Theresa May is prepared to challenge her Polish counterpart over his government’s controversial interference in the country’s judicial system, Downing Street said, as the prime minister flew to Warsaw on Thursday.
Her visit will come in the aftermath of an unprecedented decision by the EU to censure Poland for a “serious breach” of its values, which could ultimately see Warsaw stripped of its voting rights in Brussels.
May and senior cabinet ministers face a delicate diplomatic challenge for the visit, which had been intended to underline the UK’s defence and security cooperation with eastern Europe.
Ministers see Poland and other eastern European countries as potential key allies in trade talks, given their desire to retain close security cooperation.
In Warsaw, May will announce a new joint UK-Poland treaty on defence and security cooperation, only the second such treaty the UK has signed, after one with France. The governments will also jointly launch UK-funded offensives to combat alleged Russian state-sponsored “disinformation”.
The UK has remained neutral in the growing rift between Poland’s hardline right-wing government and the European Union, concerned about the image of Brussels’ apparent interference with a country’s domestic affairs.
However, May’s spokesman said she would not shirk a difficult conversation with the new Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, but stopped short of saying the UK would vote to censure Poland when potential action against the country is put before EU leaders.
In what is presumably a pre-recorded interview for the Radio 4 Today programme, health secretary Jeremy Hunt will apparently have some harsh words for his former cabinet colleague:
As noted earlier, we’re not anticipating a reshuffle today, or this year in fact, with Theresa May not expected to conjure up a new first secretary of state/minister for the cabinet office/de facto deputy prime minister until after the parliamentary recess.
There is another administrative headache brewing as Green chaired nine cabinet committees, including the sub-committees for:
- European Union exit and trade (international trade)
- European Union exit and trade (domestic preparedness, legislation and devolution)
- European Union exit and trade (European affairs)
- National security council (threats, hazards, resilience and contingencies)
- Social reform (home affairs)
And the implementation taskforces for:
- Employment and skills
Some of his other duties have already been doled out to colleagues, according to the Sun’s political editor:
Comments are now switched on, should you want to come and chat below the line.
It seemed impossible that Theresa May could be rendered a lonelier figure than she has been of late, but with Damian Green now the first secretary of state as was she seems lonelier than ever. Her devoted lieutenants Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill were torn from her nest. Now Green, her anchor in a sea of Brexit, has gone.
This was not a ministerial performance issue. That doesn’t happen. If performance and competence were salient these days May’s cabinet meetings would not be quorate. Rather, his fate was sealed by continuing questions about his alleged behaviour and character. And principally his failure to speak candidly about his knowledge of claims that pornography was found on his parliamentary computer – he still denies having downloaded or viewed pornography – and allegations that he made inappropriate advances to the young journalist Kate Maltby, a family friend. May had to part company with him. But without Green, she loses political balance and an ally as she stumbles towards Brexit.
What is worse is the extent to which this shabby affair has further corroded our ailing politics. Green, though clearly damaged beyond usefulness or reasonable repair some time ago, was allowed to carry on as though nothing untoward was happening. While officials conducted formal inquiries and former police officers levelled explosive allegations, he was sent to the dispatch box as spokesman for the government. Commercial or even public entities in similar circumstances might have suspended him from normal duties or at least tucked him into shade. Instead May shone a light and said to the world – and his accusers – this is still our champion.
With the de facto deputy prime minister gone, this is a reasonable question:
What the papers say
No Christmas prizes for guessing what leads the front pages today. We get multiple takes on the ousting of the deputy prime minister, from Metro’s curt “Green out” to City AM’s careful “Theresa May ally Damian Green resigns amid pornography allegations”.
The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and the Sun agree that, despite the niceties exchanged in letters between May and Green, he was indeed sacked. The Times says he was “forced out over computer porn cover-up”, while the Mirror hits harder with: “May axes her deputy over porn lies.”
The Daily Mail is a lone lamenting voice, sighing: “What a sad way to go.”
The Financial Times has a nod to Green but leads on Bank of England promises of easy access for European banks in London post-Brexit. The i splashes on a report that the UK wants “total secrecy” for trade talks with the US. And the Daily Express says you can beat dementia by eating salad every day.
Incidentally, if you’d like a roundup of the newspaper front pages in your inbox each weekday, along with the news headlines, do sign up for the Morning Briefing email. You can do that here:
Statement from Kate Maltby’s parents
Kate Maltby, whose allegations of harassment prompted the cabinet office inquiry into Green’s behaviour, has not yet commented on his sacking.
But her parents, Colin and Victoria Maltby, who were friends with Green, issued a statement on Wednesday night:
We are pleased that the cabinet office has concluded its inquiry into the conduct of Damian Green.
We are not surprised to find that the inquiry found Mr Green to have been untruthful as a minister, nor that they found our daughter to be a plausible witness.
We have received many supportive messages from people near and far who appreciate Kate’s courage and the importance of speaking out about the abuse of authority.
We join with them in admiring her fortitude and serenity throughout the length of the investigation and despite the attempted campaign in certain sections of the media to denigrate and intimidate her and other witnesses.
We are proud of her.
We have ourselves known of these incidents since they first occurred and have fully supported Kate in the responsible manner in which she has reported them.
The inquiry said it was “not possible to reach a definitive conclusion” on the allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Green, but said it did find Kate Maltby’s “account to be plausible”.
In his letter to Theresa May, Green said:
I deeply regret the distress caused to Kate Maltby following her article about me and the reaction to it. I do not recognise the events she described in her article, but I clearly made her feel uncomfortable and for this I apologise.
You have expressed your regret for the distress caused to Ms Maltby following her article about you and the reaction to it. I appreciate that you do not recognise the events Ms Maltby described in the article, but you do recognise that you made her feel uncomfortable and it is right that you have apologised.
(By “the reaction to it”, it’s likely both were referring to a much-criticised article about Maltby in the Daily Mail, which among other things accused her of being “one very pushy lady” with a “flair for self-promotion”.)
However, it is not clear from this exchange whether Green has in fact apologised personally to Maltby, who has not yet commented publicly on his resignation.
All the indications are that we shouldn’t expect a reshuffle today, this week or even this year.
With May on her way to Poland this morning for a two-day trip, and parliament on its Christmas recess, the next first secretary of state/minister for the cabinet office/de facto deputy prime minister might not materialise until 2018.
Which of course allows plenty of time to put together the runners and riders lists:
An early start for today’s politics live blog, hot on the heels of the Wednesday night sacking of first secretary of state and key Theresa May ally Damian Green.
News that the prime minister had asked her de facto deputy to resign – known in non-political circles as firing him – broke shortly after 8.30pm, just hours after the two had appeared side by side at the final PMQs of the year. (Here’s John Crace’s take on how that May-Corbyn festive showdown shook down.)
He was the third cabinet minister to go in the last two months, after the ousting of Michael Fallon on 1 November for harassment, and of Priti Patel a week later for her unofficial meetings with Israeli officials.
An inquiry was set up into whether Green had breached the ministerial code after Kate Maltby, a Conservative activist, said he had made inappropriate advances towards her; it was later broadened after claims surfaced that pornography was found on a parliamentary computer in Green’s office during a police raid in 2008.
As so often, it seems it wasn’t the original allegations against him that secured Green’s fate but the untruths – or, as the inquiry report puts it, his “inaccurate and misleading” statements – about claims pornography was found on his work computer.
In his resignation letter, Green also expressed “regret [for] the distress caused to Kate Maltby”, whose account the inquiry found to be “plausible”, though it did not make a ruling on whether his behaviour had been inappropriate.
You can read the full exchange of letters between May and Green here.
Andrew Sparrow will be along later to hop into the live blog chair. Comments will also be switched on later, but in the meantime you can contact me on Twitter @Claire_Phipps.
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