Parliament Committee Leaks: Speaker tells MPs to return reports

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MPS RECEIVING leaked copies of select committee reports should not make use of them and should return them "without delay", the Speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, said yesterday.

Ms Boothroyd asked the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee to make a ruling after a select committee report on the arms-to-Africa affair was leaked to Robin Cook earlier this year. The Foreign Secretary is now likely to be challenged over his failure to return the report the moment he received it, because the Foreign Office was able to prepare a line of defence before it was published. The report foundthere had been an "appalling" failure by the Foreign Office in its handling of the affair.

Mr Cook has also revealed that he received two other reports by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, has admitted that his parliamentary aide, Don Touhig, was passed a draft copy of a report from the Social Security Select Committee. MPs from all sides have been infuriated by the disclosure of leaks, arguing that it undermines their role in scrutinising the Government.

Ms Boothroyd said the views of the Standards and Privileges Committee were indicated to her in a letter. "The committee's view was that the fundamental responsibility of Members who received leaked copies of documents must be to act in a way not to impede the select committee," she said.

In the committee's judgement, she said, the MP should also not make use of the papers and should return them without delay. Miss Boothroyd added: "The Standards and Privileges Committee may have more to say on this subject, once they have completed their inquiry."