Commons Urgent Question
The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given in the House of Commons on Monday 24 May.
“Daniel Morgan’s murder in 1987 was a tragedy compounded over decades by the absence of a successful conviction in the case. Our thoughts remain with Mr Morgan’s family. They have had to wait an incredibly long time for answers and it is essential that they get them. As the House will be aware, the Daniel Morgan independent panel was set up in 2013 by the then Home Secretary. The panel was commissioned to leave no stone unturned and the review has taken eight years.
The terms of the review set out that the independent panel will present its final report to the Home Secretary, who will make arrangements for its publication to Parliament. The chair of the panel has informed the Government that the report is now complete and that she has undertaken all her required checks. This is an important milestone. Once the panel provides the Home Secretary with the report, my right honourable friend will make arrangements to lay the report in Parliament, as is her duty according to the terms of reference. The Home Office has asked the chair of the panel to agree a process for sharing the report with the department in order to proceed with its publication.
Finally, I return to Mr Morgan and his family. After 34 years of heartbreak, it is the sincere hope and expectation of the Home Secretary, and indeed all of us, that Mr Morgan’s family will receive answers to the many questions that surround the terrible circumstances of his death through the publication of this report.”
The expected publication date of the independent panel’s report was over a week ago. The Home Office has said that it has asked the chair of the independent panel to agree a process for “sharing” the report with the department in order to proceed with its publication, because the Home Secretary has national security and Human Rights Act responsibilities. Yet the Government said in the Commons yesterday that
“redaction, editing and so on”—[Official Report, Commons, 24/5/21; col. 52.]
of the independent report “will not happen.” The panel itself, whose chair will speak on this Urgent Question, has said that
“a senior specialist Metropolitan Police team”
has already carried out a security check, and that the intervention of the Home Secretary is
“unnecessary and is not consistent with the panel’s independence”,
whose terms of reference make it clear that the Home Secretary’s role is limited to receiving the report, laying it before Parliament and responding to the findings. How are the Home Secretary’s intervention and supposed checks, which will not lead to any
“redaction, editing and so on”,—[Official Report, Commons, 24/5/21; col. 52.]
consistent with the independent—I stress the word—panel’s terms of reference?
My Lords, a publication date cannot be arranged until the report is actually received. The Home Office is working with the panel for that to happen. My honourable friend did say yesterday that there would be no redactions, but there were caveats in two areas: national security and human rights considerations. Security checks have already been carried out; I bow completely to the knowledge and experience of the people who may have carried them out, but my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has a personal obligation, by dint of her post, to assure herself that those security checks are carried out to her satisfaction.
My Lords, when the Metropolitan police service refused to allow the Independent Police Complaints Commission to visit the scene of the police shooting of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005, I went to the then Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and told him it was the most stupid decision I had ever heard of in policing, because it would give credence to people who were expecting a cover-up. The second most stupid decision must be that of the Home Secretary to block the publication of a report into an alleged establishment cover-up over the investigation of the murder of Daniel Morgan. Does the Minister not see the parallels?
My Lords, I do not see how there can have been a cover-up, if the Home Secretary has not yet received the report. We need to be very careful about the series of events that are required for publication to take place. I am sure that, like the noble Lord, we all look forward to the report being published in Parliament.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the Daniel Morgan independent panel. Is the noble Baroness aware that the panel has worked very closely with the Home Office, including with the Permanent Secretary, on arrangements for publication, and that it understood until 10 May that it was most likely that the report would be published on 17 May or yesterday and that the Home Secretary would have prior sight of it, as normal? There was no suggestion that the Home Secretary would seek to redact the panel’s independent report.
Is the Minister aware of the process adopted by the panel to ensure compliance with its legal obligations, which derive from its terms of reference, and the requirements when a report is to be published in Parliament, which include getting consent from all document holders to publication of their material, an anonymisation process, the sending of fairness letters to all individuals and organisations criticised in the report, a 10-day security review by five senior members of the Metropolitan Police and a full legal review of the 1,200-page report by the panel’s independent solicitors and Queen’s Counsel to ensure that there are no outstanding concerns?
Is she aware that the panel now awaits confirmation from the Home Office of the arrangements to ensure the security of the report prior to its publication in Parliament? Despite her previous answer, can she assure the House that publication will occur by 16 June, to enable the family of Daniel Morgan, who have been waiting 34 years and three months for answers, finally to see this report?
I begin by thanking the noble Baroness for the part she has played as chair of the inquiry. We are as keen as she is to see that report published in Parliament. I echo her words about the family, who have had to wait 34 years for some of the answers they seek. That must have been an incredibly painful process for them. On publication to Parliament, I agree that the panel is now awaiting confirmation of the arrangements from the Home Office. The Home Secretary needs to see the report before it can be published in Parliament. To echo previous noble Lords, I also completely respect that legal specialists have looked at the report, but my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is under an obligation to assure herself of those facts before the report is published. As my honourable friend read out yesterday, the terms of reference say:
“The Independent Panel will present its final Report to the Home Secretary who will make arrangements.”
The noble Baroness has acknowledged that there is no attempt to redact, only to ensure that human rights and national security issues are absolutely scrutinised. Then, I hope, the report will be published as soon as practicable.
My Lords, during yesterday’s exchanges in the House of Commons the Minister was specifically asked twice, by Chris Bryant at col. 52 and Stuart McDonald at col. 54, to set out details of meetings of the Home Secretary or advisers with News UK, Rupert Murdoch or Rebekah Brooks regarding the panel report. The Minister completely ignored both questions and at no time made any reference to News UK. Would the Minister now like to answer the point, which must be referred to in her brief? Have there been such meetings?