Cameron furious after senior Tory MP arrested

Shadow Immigration minister's premises searched over Home Office leaks
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Indy Politics

A senior Conservative frontbencher was arrested yesterday in connection with leaks of information from the Home Office.

Damian Green, the shadow Immigration minister, was being questioned in a London police station last night after he was held on suspicion of "conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office and aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office". He had not been charged with any offence last night.

Police searched Mr Green's Westminster and constituency offices as well as his home after he was arrested in Kent yesterday afternoon.

Senior Tory sources said the arrest was linked to a string of embarrassing revelations about the Home Office which have emerged in the press in recent months and came 10 days after the arrest of a "whistleblower".

It is understood that as many as nine counter-terrorism officers were involved in the operation, which provoked fury among the Conservative high command.

A senior Tory source said the party's leader David Cameron was "supportive and is angry about the way Damian Green has been treated" after he learnt about the arrest of his senior frontbencher.

One source described the arrest as "Stalinesque". He said: "It's quite clear that this must have been cleared at the very top of government."

Downing Street said Gordon Brown had been informed of the police operation after Mr Green's arrest.

A spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has been informed about it. It was the first he had heard about it. He did not have any knowledge until the police had acted. It's a matter for the police."

The allegations are understood to centre on four newspaper reports which have caused considerable embarrassment to ministers in recent months.

They include: the publication of a Whips' Office memo detailing Labour MPs expected to vote against plans to detain terror suspects for 42 days without charge; a report in November last year that the Home Office was aware the Security Industry Authority had granted licences to 5,000 illegal workers; a report in February that an illegal immigrant was employed as a cleaner in the Home Office; and a letter from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to the Prime Minister warning that recession could lead to a rise in violent crime.

A Conservative Party statement said: "We can confirm that Damian Green was arrested earlier today in connection with his work as Opposition spokesman for immigration.

"As shadow immigration minister, Mr Green has, on a number of occasions, legitimately revealed information which the Home Office chose not to make public.

"Disclosure of this information was manifestly in the public interest. Mr Green denies any wrongdoing and stands by his actions."

Whitehall sources insisted last night that ministers were not aware of Mr Green's arrest until after the event. One said: "There is absolutely no party political element to this."

George Osborne last night described Mr Green's arrest as "absolutely extraordinary".

He told the BBC's Question Time programme: "It has long been the case in our democracy that Members of Parliament have received information from civil servants. I think to hide information from the public is wrong.

"It is very early days. It's an extraordinary case. I think there are going to be some very, very big questions asked of the police."