Anti-terror chief's apology fails to quell row over Tory attack

Conservatives question whether officer should lead inquiry into Green arrest
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Doubts were growing over the future of Britain's anti-terror police chief last night after the Conservatives questioned his objectivity and temperament. Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick issued a second apology yesterday, after protests from David Cameron, for describing the Tory party as "wholly corrupt" and accusing it of trying to sabotage an investigation into Whitehall leaks.

Senior party figures questioned whether Mr Quick, who leads the Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism squad, could continue running the inquiry that led to the arrest of the Tory frontbencher Damian Green.

The clashes have raised questions over whether he could continue in the highly sensitive counter-terrorism post under a Conservative government.

Boris Johnson, the Tory Mayor of London, has already condemned the police action against Mr Green, who was arrested and whose office was searched during investigations to discover the source of leaks of government information.

The storm around Mr Quick blew up after a Sunday newspaper published details of a wedding car hire business run by his wife from the couple's home.

He angrily responded by accusing the party of planting the story in an attempt to undermine the inquiry and protested that he had been forced to move his children for their safety. He also alleged that the "Tory machinery and their press friends" were opposing the investigation into Mr Green "in a wholly corrupt way".

Mr Quick withdrew the corruption claim on Sunday and went further yesterday morning when he issued a full retraction after the Conservative leader protested about his remarks.

He said: "I have now reflected on the comments I made yesterday at a difficult time for me and my family.

"I wish to make clear that it was not my intention to make any allegations and I retract my comments. I apologise unreservedly for any offence or embarrassment that I have caused."

Mr Grieve, who is likely to be home secretary in a Tory government, said he accepted the apology. But then he suggested Mr Quick should take soundings over whether he could continue heading the leaks inquiry.

"It seems to me that the proper course of action is for Mr Quick to reflect on whether he has maintained the necessary objectivity to continue with this investigation," Mr Grieve said.

"That is doubtless a matter which, as a professional police officer, he can discuss professionally with his colleagues and I don't think it is for me to say one way or another."

Scotland Yard – which has been divided at senior ranks over the wisdom of the Green investigation – said last night that it believed his full apology drew a line under the episode and insisted he would remain in charge of the leaks inquiry.

One source said that Mr Quick's off-the-cuff reaction to the Sunday paper report was out of character for an officer who had won respect for his calmness in the face of difficult decisions. Scotland Yard is expected shortly to lift the immediate pressure on him by announcing it is abandoning the Damian Green inquiry.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said: "I think the most important thing is that he is able to get on with the job of keeping this country safe."