Clarke accuses Kinnock of leaking Treasury brief

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The Independent Online
Britain's European commissioner, Neil Kinnock, the former Labour leader, was implicated yesterday by Kenneth Clarke in the leaking of a confidential briefing note from the Treasury on European economic and monetary union which forced the Chancellor to make his statement to the Commons.

Mr Clarke accused Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, of leaking the papers to the Sunday Times, an allegation which Mr Brown failed to deny. But the Chancellor appeared to point the finger at Mr Kinnock, Britain's second European commissioner, as the culprit for the leaking of the document.

The note said "the current proposals will not be acceptable to Parliament". It also made it clear the Chancellor was concerned about the stability pact proposed by the Germans for imposing penalties on countries which failed to keep to the discipline of the Emu.

He said he had personally taken the decision to send the confidential papers to both Mr Kinnock and Britain's senior commissioner, Sir Leon Brittan, the former Tory Cabinet minister. Mr Clarke told MPs Sir Leon appeared to be "in the clear" leaving open the impression that Mr Kinnock or his office were to blame.

The Chancellor used the leaking of the documents to deflect attention away from the real purpose of his statement, which was to lance the boil of the Tory backbench anger over Europe before it spilled into the Budget. Mr Clarke said it was the distorted reporting of the documents which had forced him to make his statement. Labour MPs were astonished at the Chancellor's readiness to implicate one of Britain's most senior figures in Europe in his absence. It could lead to strained relations between the Government and Mr Kinnock's office.

Mr Clarke said he would be seeking assurances from Mr Kinnock about the documents. It was suggested by the former Cabinet minister, David Hunt, a pro-European ally of Mr Clarke's, who said he should send no more documents to Mr Kinnock's office "until he has received a satisfactory explanation of what went wrong".

Mr Clarke said he had no means of knowing where the published documents came from but he told MPs copies were sent to both of Britain's commissioners.

"I myself took the decision whether or not to send it to one commissioner or both British commissioners. I decided the national interest required me to send it to both commissioners personally and in confidence to them and their chefs du cabinet. I have now idea how it reached the outside."

But Mr Clarke said "Sir Leon Brittan is probably in the clear. I shall certainly consider what briefing I put forward in the future".

The note - one of four documents which were leaked - was prepared at the request of Sir Leon and Mr Kinnock to brief them on British views. It was issued by the Treasury in confidence but Mr Clarke said it was released yesterday, because Mr Brown had "seen fit to break that confidence".