House Procedure: Brown admits receiving leaked Commons report

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THE GOVERNMENT faced fresh claims that it was attempting to undermine Parliament last night after the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, admitted receiving a leak of a controversial Commons report.

Mr Brown told MPs that his office had been passed a draft copy of a Social Services Select Committee report by an unidentified source. The report, which had called for taxation of child benefit, was watered down by Labour MPs before it was published in a move critics claimed was designed to avoid embarrassing the Government.

News of the leak, to Mr Brown's parliamentary private secretary, Don Touhig, infuriated MPs already reeling from recent revelations that the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, had been leaked three Commons reports prior to publication.

His disclosure followed a row over the leaking of the committee's report on the arms-to-Africa affair, which led to the resignation of committee member Ernie Ross.

Mr Brown said a Commons in written reply: "A primary draft of a report was given to my parliamentary private secretary but not the final report."

"Neither I nor any other Treasury minister was given or read any copy of reports prior to their release."

Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative social security spokesman, said last night that the revelations proved conclusively that Labour MPs were being used to undermine the select committee process.

"There must be real concern that this was used to influence the outcome of the report. The select committee should carry out an urgent investigation to find out whether the nark was on the committee," he said.

In a Commons written reply, Mr Cook confirmed his office had received a version of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee's report on human rights from Mr Ross. But he raised the possibility of another source being responsible for the leaking of the committee's report on EU enlargement.

"There was nothing on the draft version of the Foreign Affairs committee's report to indicate its source. Mr Ross has made it clear to us that he did not send the documents."