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Mar
2015
Friday 27th
posted by Luke James in Britain

Furious Labour politicians call for the release of secret reports on their personal and political lives


LABOUR MPs targeted by police spooks demanded the release yesterday of secret files compiled on their political and personal lives over 10 years.

Lib Dem Police Minister Mike Penning faced an urgent question over the covert surveillance of MPs on the final day of parliamentary debate before the election.

Only hours earlier, spook-turned-whistleblower Peter Francis had revealed that Special Branch spied on 10 Labour MPs during the 1990s.

Prominent MPs such as Dennis Skinner, Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn and the late Tony Benn were all monitored by Special Branch, he told the Guardian.

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman, the most senior MP targeted, demanded to see an uncensored copy of her file.

Mr Penning told MPs that their cases would be considered by the Pitchford inquiry into secret policing that was established earlier this month.

But Ms Harman argued that he was kicking the issue into the long grass, saying: “I would like you to assure me that you, the government, will let me see a full copy of my file.

“I was campaigning for the rights of women, for the rights of workers and the right to demonstrate — none of that was against the law, none of that was undermining our democracy.”

Jack Straw said that the evidence suggested he was being spied on even while he was home secretary between 1997 and 2001.

During the urgent question, Mr Skinner asked why the spooks “only seem to pursue socialists?”

Mr Corbyn also pressed Mr Penning to secure the release of the “full, unredacted version” of his file.

“If I was under surveillance, or the late Bernie Grant or any of my friends, then presumably the police were at whatever meetings we attended and recorded whatever phone calls we made,” he said.

“I think we have a right to know about that.”

The minister promised the pair that he would “make sure that as much as can be released is released” but added that there may be security reasons for material being withheld or censored.

A Home Office spokesman told the Star that the final decision on whether to redact information would be made by the Metropolitan Police, which holds the files.

The Morning Star contacted the Met to ask whether it would release the files in full.

In a statement, a Met spokeswoman said: “While talking openly about undercover policing is challenging because of its very nature, the upcoming inquiry represents a real opportunity to provide the public with as complete a picture as possible of what has taken place.”

She added that Operation Herne, the police investigation into misconduct by Met officers, was “very willing to engage” with Mr Francis about his claims.Operation Herne maintains that without speaking to Peter Francis it is simply not possible to fully investigate allegations he makes,” she said. 

But Labour MP John McDonnell said that the government should first guarantee Mr Francis immunity from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. 

Mr McDonnell tabled an early day motion last week calling on the Pitchford inquiry to examine evidence given by Mr Francis that the Met also spied on trade unions, the family of murder victim Stephen Lawrence and anti-fascist groups.




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