Feeds

Did speaker's statement show he doesn't know what day IT is?

Wool(sack)y thinking on PCs

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Comment Reports from the House of Commons last week suggested that the police took their time returning Damien Green's PCs to him.

To compound the insult, it is clear Speaker of the House Michael Martin, and most MPs, have at best not much of clue when it comes to technical issues.

In his statement on Wednesday, Michael Martin said: "With regard to the computer equipment being removed, when I discovered that, I instructed the Serjeant at Arms to ensure that the police had that equipment back in the office on Monday to allow the hon Member concerned to function properly as a Member of Parliament".

All well and straightforward – except for the question of whether he meant last Monday or this. The ambiguity is compounded by the fact that, about two sentences prior to this claim, he talks about a government motion being brought before the House next Monday.

The House of Commons Press Office is refusing to clarify. Ditto the Met, although consensus amongst parliamentary staff we have spoken to seems to be that it meant last Monday - December 1.

If so, then this leaves an unhappy gap in the Speaker’s statement, since our most recent understanding from one insider close to this affair is that by mid-day last Thursday, some equipment had still not been returned, a fact that the Speaker could not - should not - have been unaware of on Wednesday. A member of Damian Green's office staff also confirmed on Friday that the equipment had been returned the previous day.

Of course, for a non-technical audience, the simple question of whether PC equipment had been returned might be enough. However, Register readers – and anyone else with a modicum of understanding of the IT issues involved – may be less impressed by the complacency of the Statement.

There are three reasons why the police raid was considered controversial: the lack of a warrant, the impounding of an MP’s "tools of trade", making it impossible for him to do his job, and the possible risk that "privileged information" including confidential correspondence from constituents may have inadvertently been seized by police.

Whether such correspondence does count as privileged within the meaning of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) is subject to debate.

We spoke to John Cooper, a Barrister at 25 Bedford Row and an expert in this area. He said: "Correspondence with an MP is not automatically privileged in the way that medical or legal documents would be. It is possible that some of the material on Mr Green’s PC would be subject to privilege – but not necessarily so."

The Speaker’s statement covered the first two of these issues, but appears to have left the third completely unaddressed. It is hard to believe that the police would have gone to so much trouble to seize computer equipment – and then return it without retaining a copy.

However, on such technical issues as whether assurances were also sought from the police that they would not image Damian Green’s hard drive before returning it, the Speaker on Wednesday and the Commons Press Office since have been strangely silent.

Which brings us back to our original speculation. Is it possible that having failed to take full legal advice on the rights of the police action, the Speaker has compounded the matter by failing to talk to anyone who understands IT about the issues involved? It would be staggering if this were so – but on the evidence in the public domain to date, it is beginning to look as though this is indeed the case. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
EMC, HP blockbuster 'merger' shocker comes a cropper
Stand down, FTC... you can put your feet up for a bit
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.