On Monday, after too long an Easter break, MPs wanted to hear from the Home Secretary.
We wanted to know why Damian Green had been interviewed and his office and papers searched, why he had been told he faced lifetime imprisonment, when after a long delay no charges were brought. I would liked to have asked that if Labour ever found itself in Opposition, would it expect a Conservative government to allow or to instruct the police to investigate every embarassing leak of documents by Labour MPs not relating to national security as a criminal matter?
We wanted to hear the Home Secretary’s view of the G20 policing, and to find out what she thought of the scenes we have all witnessed on TV. We would like to know if kettling is the best way of handling things, and if so what rights people have to food and drink, to comfort stops and to going home if they are caught up in the kettle without being a demonstrator.
And some MPs did want to hear about the resignation of Mr Quick and details of the anti terror raids carried out shortly after the press read Mr Quick’s papers.
Under the rules of Parliament, the government decides what it will give Statements on. Oppositions can only huff and puff if we disagree about what is important enough to warrant a Statement. This Home Secretary had just enough political nous to realise she had to make a Statement on something. She opted for what she thought was the soft option, of just making a satement on the third of these items. That meant we could not ask her questions about the other two. It was to be Hamlet without the Prince, and without Ophelia.
She presented an upbeat view of the anti terror action. She argued that Mr Quick’s mistake had done no damage to the operation. The arrests went ahead just a little earlier than planned, but thyere had been no other difficulty. She implied that a most dangerous terror plot had been foiled. The House was naturally pleased to hear that.
I asked if she at the time of the decision to go ahead was persuaded that the people to be arrested were likely to face serious criminal charges, and asked if that was likely to happen. She was very guarded in her answer, implying some doubts. 24 hours later I learnt form the media that none of the people involved were going to be charged with serious terrorist offences.
The Home Secretary did not return to the Commons to explain what had happened. Clearly something important changed between her statement and the next day, otherwise I assume she would have told me that charges were unlikely. And no, to the disappointment of many of you, no MP wanted to ask her about her expenses. We did think the policing issues were far more important. Expenses were always going to be discussed and changed at a different time and in a different way.