Sat, Nov 29, 2008 - Page 6 News List

British police arrest opposition MP over government leaks

AP , LONDON

British police arrested a Conservative lawmaker on Thursday, party members said, drawing a wave of indignation from opposition politicians.

Opposition lawmakers claimed that Damian Green, a member of parliament, was taken into custody over the publication of stories about Britain’s Home Office.

The Home Office, responsible for managing Britain’s borders and immigration, has suffered from a string of embarrassing leaks over the past year — including the revelation that an illegal immigrant had been employed as a cleaner in parliament.

Senior Conservative lawmaker George Osborne told the BBC that Green was “handling information that was leaked from the Home Office, information passed to him by a civil servant.” He then qualified the statement, saying “this was all alleged” and that the matter was still developing.

Osborne said the situation was “absolutely extraordinary.”

“It has long been the case in our democracy that MPs [members of parliament] have received information from civil servants — I think to hide information from the public is wrong,” he said. “I think there are going to be some very, very big questions asked of the police.”

Asked about Green, Britain’s Metropolitan Police Service released a statement saying police arrested a 52-year-old man on suspicion of “conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office,” adding that the man was released on bail without being charged.

Metropolitan Police said they were investigating an “alleged leak of confidential government material” and their decision to make the arrest was taken “without any ministerial knowledge or approval.”

They acknowledged the use of anti-terror police in the operation.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office said Brown had no prior knowledge of the move.

But the arrest of Green, the Conservative Party’s spokesman on immigration issues, has caused outrage. The Labour Party said the issue was a police matter.

The Times quoted Conservative leader David Cameron as calling the move “Stalinesque.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the arrest did not represent “commonsense policing.”

Johnson said in a statement that it was “hard to believe that on the day when terrorists have gone on the rampage in India that anti-terror police in Britain have apparently targeted an elected representative of parliament for no greater crime than allegedly receiving leaked documents.”

Chris Huhne, a lawmaker from the Liberal Democrats, said the arrest was “quite astonishing.”

“This could have truly appalling effects on how we hold the government to account in the House of Commons,” Huhne said.

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