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Speaker distances himself from police raids on MP

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The Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin has confirmed that he was not asked for permission for the Metropolitan Police, who had no search warrant, to raid Tory shadow minister Damian Green's office in the House.

Passing the buck deftly Martin blamed his deputy - the Serjeant at Arms Jill Pay. Martin said: "I regret that a consent form was then signed by the Serjeant at Arms without consulting the Clerk of the House.

"I must make it clear to the House that I was not asked the question of whether consent should be given or whether a warrant should have been insisted on."

Martin said he regretted the consent form had been signed by the Serjeant. He said he had not been told that the police had no warrant but that in future a warrant would be required.

Martin said he was phoned by Jill Pay at 7am on Thursday and told Damian Green's name and that a raid might take place.

Martin said he would set up a committee of seven senior MPs to investigate the scandal as soon as possible.

Asked by Michael Howard about the seizure of Green's computers and mobile phones Martin said he contacted the Serjeant at Arms in order to get those returned as soon as he heard.

Damian Green thanked the Speaker for his statement and thanked members of the public who had expressed their support.

Before Martin's statement to the House Acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson spoke to the Greater London Authority and denied that police had used bugging equipment in investigating Green and the alleged Home Office leaker.

Stephenson also denied that police were dancing to a tune set by Labour ministers. He said: "I would strongly refute that I or any senior officer under my command have or would allow any improper influence of our operational judgment and actions for political purposes."

The debate overshadowed the Queen's Speech, though Labour MP for Bolsover Dennis Skinner got in his habitual quip by shouting at Black Rod "Any Tory moles in the palace?"

An odd aside - Action on Rights for Children noted that Damian Green's 15-year old daughter should now, according to Met guidelines, be entered onto the Merlin database.

Any child present during a police search, as Green's daughter was, should be assessed to check they are achieving the "Every Child Matters" guidelines. Merlin database entries are accessible by all Met police and civil staff and should be faxed to social services.®

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