The police officers responsible for arresting an MP and searching his offices should be dragged into the House of Commons and ordered to explain themselves, according to a Black Country MP.
David Winnick (Lab Walsall North) condemned the Metropolitan Police, after it emerged they did not have a warrant when they arrested Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green last week.
Mr Green was questioned for nine hours by counter-terrorism officers while his home and offices were searched, kicking off a major political row.
MPs gathered in the Commons to discuss the government’s legislative programme set out in the Queen’s Speech but the debate was delayed as the Speaker, Michael Martin, made a statement defending himself against complaints that he had failed to protect the independence of Parliament.
He insisted that he did not “personally authorise” the search of Mr Green’s House of Commons office, and placed the blame on the police, and on a senior Commons official.
Mr Martin said he was informed last Thursday, before the raid took place, that police wanted to search Mr Green’s offices and might arrest him.
But he said: “I was not told that the police did not have a warrant.”
And police had failed to explain – as they are legally required to do – that they could be refused permission to conduct a search if they had no warrant, Mr Martin said.
But the decision to let them into Mr Green’s office had actually been made by the Serjeant at Arms, Jill Pay, a senior member of staff in the Commons, he said.
“I regret that a consent form was then signed by the Serjeant at Arms without consulting the Clerk of the House,” Mr Martin said.
“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,” he said.
“I did not personally authorise the search.”
The comments prompted an angry response for Mr Winnick, who called for police to appear before the “bar” of the House, which would mean attending the Commons chamber to be quizzed by MPs.
Mr Winnick said: “All that you have said makes me all the more convinced that what took place was totally without any justification whatsoever, and that it was a breach of Parliamentary convention.
“I would like to see those responsible, the most senior police officers involved, come to the Bar of the House and explain their conduct.
“We need an explanation, and we need it very promptly, of why the police acted as they did.”
The Speaker told MPs that police in future would need a warrant and his personal permission to conduct searches on Commons premises. He also set up an inquiry to look into what had happened.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith (Lab Redditch) is also due to make a full statement on Mr Green’s arrest to MPs.
Acting Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson strongly defended his force’s handling of the leak investigation, saying: “The police must be able to act without fear or favour in any investigation, whomsoever may be involved, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect they may have committed criminal offences.”