Major 'angry' at Smith talks leak

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DOWNING STREET last night wrote to the Home Office as part of its inquiries into the source of the leak about the Prime Minister's private talks with John Smith, the Labour leader, on the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism order.

The Prime Minister's office said John Major was 'fairly angry' with the disclosure of the talks in his private room at the Commons with Mr Smith. The Labour leader was seeking a return to the bipartisan support for the PTA for the first time in a decade, provided changes were made to the order.

Downing Street sources said the inquiries were informal and did not involve the police. The Prime Minister was given assurances by staff at Number 10 yesterday that they were not responsible for the leak.

The Prime Minister's office wrote to the Home Office and the Northern Ireland Office to ask them to take similar action, an official said. Home Office aides yesterday were angered by Labour claims that they were responsible for the leak. They vehemently denied knowledge of the talks between Mr Smith and Mr Major.

Labour MPs are furious at the leaking of the talks and were threatening to make protests in the Commons on Wednesday during the debate on the renewal of the order.

Mr Smith was formally told that his demand for changes to the order had been rejected in contacts between the Home Office and Tony Blair, the Shadow Home Secretary.

Labour will now vote against the renewal of the order. Ministers are ready to exploit Labour's opposition to the renewal of the PTA to counter Mr Blair's effective campaign on law and order, traditionally the Tory issue.

The Labour leadership said it was prepared to support the PTA, provided changes were made to the powers of exclusion and detention without charge, to underpin cross-party support for the Downing Street declaration.

John Smith wrote to Mr Major last night calling for the inquiry to be 'both thorough and comprehensive'.