Whip moves to stop laptop flap

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ANN TAYLOR is to tell MPs that there was nothing sinister behind the removal of computers from the whip's office by Nick Brown, the former Chief Whip, when he moved to the Ministry of Agriculture.

A Tory MP last night tabled Commons questions to Ms Taylor, the Chief Whip, following a report in a Sunday newspaper about the removal of the laptop computers. It raised speculation at Westminster that Mr Brown had some secret information on the computers. But the explanation given last night was that his special advisers were unwilling to learn how to use the Ministry computers.

Whitehall sources said Ms Taylor would be making it clear that there was no secret whips' information held on the computers used by Mr Brown's special advisers. "They had got used to the way they were set up and wanted to carry on using them," said the source.

Ms Taylor billed Mr Brown's advisers for the laptops to be replaced, at a cost totalling around pounds 12,000.

South West HertfordshireMP Richard Page tabled two written Commons questions about the computers and said he wanted a full explanation of who authorised the payments. He said: "If public money has been spent in this way, we all need to know the reasons why. The public deserves some definitive answers."

A Ministry of Agriculture spokesman said the explanation was that Mr Brown's advisers did not want to retrain when they moved departments.

The spokesman said: "The Ministry paid for the Whips Office to replace the machines at a cost of just over pounds 11,000. Any access to the Whips Office system was removed when they were transferred."