Tuesday, 31 March 2009
By Jason Lewis
Last updated at 3:14 AM on 29th March 2009
Passengers on ferries to the Isle of Wight and Scottish islands such as Mull and Skye will soon have to carry identity papers to comply with new police anti-terror powers.
And travellers flying between British cities or to Northern Ireland face having their personal data logged when booking tickets and checking in.
Until now ferry passengers on most routes in Britain have not been required to produce ID and internal flight passengers only face random police checks.
But under new Government security rules that will come into force next year, personal data, including name, date of birth and home address, will be typed into a computer record for the police by the booking clerk or travel agent.
Passengers will also face further ID checks when boarding their flight or ferry.
isle of wight
Travellers will face ID checks when boarding flights or ferries to the Isle of Wight
Under the new powers, police will be able to track the movements of around 60million domestic passengers a year.
The controversial measures were due to be introduced two years ago, but were dropped after protests from Ulster politicians, who said the plan would construct ‘internal borders’ in the UK.
But last week the Government used the release of its anti-terrorism strategy to quietly reintroduce them. Buried on Page 113 of the 174-page ‘CONTEST’ document was the announcement of ‘new police powers to collect advanced passenger data on some domestic air and sea journeys’.
Last night a Home Office spokesman confirmed the measures would ‘require passengers to show photo ID, such as a driving licence or the (proposed) Government ID cards, when booking tickets for domestic air and sea journeys’.
He added that ‘ferry journeys to the Isle of Wight or the Isle of Skye’ and ‘private jet passengers’ would be included in the new measures, due to be formally announced later this year.
The powers will be introduced using a so-called ‘statutory instrument’ signed off by the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, without the need for a full debate in the House of Commons.
A 2006 Home Office report said: ‘This data will provide the police with invaluable intelligence, enabling them to track the movements of suspected criminal and terrorist passengers.’
However it acknowledged that the new rules would ‘impact upon carrier check-in transaction times’.
‘Since passports are not required on domestic journeys, the required data – taken from travel documents and forms of ID – would need to be keyed in manually,’ the report stated.
The CIA has ruled out allowing British detectives to interview the American spies involved in the rendition and interrogation of terror suspect Binyam Mohamed.
The decision, made at the highest level of the intelligence organisation, is a major blow to the police investigation into MI5 complicity in his alleged torture.
Lawyers for the former Guantanamo Bay detainee claim MI5 agents knew he was a victim of torture and the CIA’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ programme, which saw him secretly flown to interrogation centres in countries with poor human rights records.
Baroness Scotland, the Attorney-General, announced last week that detectives will investigate whether any MI5 complicity in Mohamed’s treatment breached British law.
But crucial to the case will be what the CIA – which was holding Mohamed and transferred him from Pakistan to secret locations in Morocco and Afghanistan – told MI5 about his treatment and when.
Secret documents, which the UK Government has suppressed on national security grounds, written by American officials, allegedly give full details of his maltreatment.
But last week a highly-placed CIA official said its officers would not be made available to the Metropolitan Police inquiry.
The official told The Mail on Sunday it was ‘unlikely’ that an agent would be made available to British police for questioning. He said: ‘We have learned from the British not to take actions that are not in our best interest.’
The senior official also appeared to rule out CIA officers appearing as witnesses in any court proceedings on the issue.
He said if the British courts requested a serving agent to testify, that would be ‘difficult’ and ‘quite unlikely’. The courts, he said, would have to guarantee CIA agents immunity from prosecution and their anonymity.
He said agents would expect to testify in such a way that they could not be identified.
He said there would be ‘no name and no public appearance. He would have to speak to the court from behind a screen. Not only that, but the evidence he would provide would have to be agreed in advance’.
The source said the agency would have ‘much less difficulty’ making an agent available for questioning by British intelligence officials.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice revealed the difficulties British police would face if they wanted to question American government officials about the case.
A spokesman said they would not comment on ‘hypotheticals’ and that they would have no reaction until the British courts actually requested witnesses, ‘if that ever happens’.
But a senior US government legal source said that if the British courts requested evidence from US government employees, the Department of Justice would ‘almost certainly demand a guarantee of complete immunity from prosecution’.
He said: ‘Strict terms would be demanded and negotiated. For example, the British courts would not be allowed to cross-examine a US government employee on material that was considered to be classified by the US government.’
First published 29th March 2009
Terror suspect: Binyam Mohamed
MI5 made no attempt to stop terror suspect Binyam Mohamed’s extraordinary rendition by the CIA because they believed such ‘transfers’ were lawful and proper.
The admission from a senior manager in MI5’s international terrorism division raises new questions about the Security Service’s alleged complicity in torture.
Extraordinary rendition involved secretly transferring terror suspects to interrogation centres in countries with poor human rights records – a practice the British Government says it does not condone.
The new disclosures in legal statements by MI5 officers, obtained by The Mail on Sunday after this newspaper approached the High Court yesterday, show that was not the view of the Security Service when it interviewed Mohamed in 2002.
Until now the papers, which include a Witness statement from the MI5 officer who interviewed Mohamed, his official report of the meeting and two statements from the officer’s boss, had been kept secret by the courts.
Last night the evidence contained in the new documents led to calls from senior politicians for the police investigation into MI5’s handling of Mohamed’s case to be widened.
Mohamed, 30, an Ethiopian, lived in London for seven years before travelling to Afghanistan in 2001.
In a Mail on Sunday interview earlier this month, he told of his capture in Pakistan in 2002, followed by torture at the behest of the CIA there and in Morocco and Afghanistan.
He claimed that MI5 officers were complicit in his treatment, interrogating him after torture in Pakistan and supplying dossiers of questions while he was being interviewed in Morocco – where his penis was allegedly slashed with a scalpel.
Evidence that the decision to co-operate with US extraordinary renditions was taken at a high level is contained in a statement by an MI5 officer known as ‘Witness A’.
It says: ‘The transfer of detainees by the US authorities to detention facilities in Afghanistan was not unusual and was not regarded as unlawful or improper. It does not appear from the records I have seen that the Security Service objected.’
In a judgment last summer, the High Court stated that Mohamed’s detention and transfer from Pakistan were illegal.
A leading international lawyer said yesterday: ‘To hold a suspect incommunicado, without charge, to subject him to repeated coercive interrogation and to move him across international borders without judicial sanction are flagrant breaches of both Pakistani and international law, and I find it astonishing that intelligence officers were unaware of this.’
Clive Stafford Smith, Mohamed’s lawyer, said: ‘Someone told this Witness A it was perfectly fine to go around the world abducting people. Police need to find out who issued this illegal order.’
According to Witness A, MI5 was not told of Mohamed’s whereabouts but continued to supply his interrogators with questions because ‘it was considered essential in the interests of national security to try to obtain answers to certain questions, in particular about a strand of reporting suggesting current plans for an attack in the UK’.
MI5 did not, the statement says, attempt to assess if anything Mohamed said was ‘the product of torture’.
The newly-disclosed documents also include a record of an interrogation of Mohamed in Pakistan, made by another MI5 man, ‘Witness B’.
The typed note, sent to MI5 headquarters after Witness B interviewed Mohamed in a Pakistan prison in May 2002, reveals for the first time why the Security Service was so interested in him.
MI5 believed Mohamed had crucial evidence about the activities of alleged terrorist mastermind Abu Qatada, Osama Bin Laden’s so-called Ambassador to Europe, and a London-based network supplying Al Qaeda with recruits from the Ladbroke Grove mosque in West London.
Mohamed had been a cleaner at the mosque where the radical cleric, who is currently in prison facing deportation to Jordan on terror charges, was a regular. According to Witness B: ‘Abu Qatada may have played a significant part in Mohamed’s story.’
Mohamed told Witness B he had seen Abu Qatada at the mosque but ‘never approached Abu Qatada and no one at the [mosque] would talk to him [Mohamed] because he was only the cleaner.’ The MI5 officer adds: ‘This is highly implausible.’
The Security Service interview also focused on a mysterious Al Qaeda recruiter named as ‘Ali’, who apparently radicalised Mohamed after he converted to Islam and arranged for him to go on a ‘weapons and street fighting course’ at Al Qaeda’s Al Farouq camp in Afghanistan.
Mohamed told MI5 that he had met Ali at the Ladbroke Grove mosque. He said he suspected that Ali also attended Finsbury Park mosque where hook-handed cleric Abu Hamza preached and where several terrorists, including shoebomber Richard Reid and 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, were recruited.
According to the MI5 report, Mohamed said Ali was a 30-year-old Pakistani who taught him ‘the tenets of Islam’ and with whom ‘the subject of jihad “came up”’.
‘Mohamed began to focus on Chechnya and expressed his desire to fight there,’ the report says. ‘Ali told him he had to undergo training first. Ali fixed everything for Mohamed’s travel to Afghanistan. He knew how to QUOTE fix passports, and where to get a visa UNQUOTE.’
The MI5 officer adds: ‘This possibly contradicts Mohamed’s claim that he had obtained [his false passport – which led to his arrest in Pakistan] independently.’
Last night David Davis, the former Shadow Home Secretary, said: ‘It is becoming clear with each new piece of information that British agencies’ involvement with torture and illegal detention went all the way to the top.
‘The police need to discover who was responsible for this policy and, if necessary, they must be dealt with.’
At the time of Mohamed’s capture, MI5’s anti-terrorist chief was Jonathan Evans, its present Director General.
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
Stasi HQ UK... where details of all your journeys are secretly logged and kept for a decade
By Jason Lewis
First published 21st March 2009
This anonymous office building on a business park near Heathrow Airport is where the Government has begun monitoring millions of British holidaymakers using its controversial new 'terrorist detector' database.
The top-secret computer system - tied into the airlines' ticketing network - makes judgments about travel habits and passengers' friends and family to decide if they are a security risk.
Like something from a science-fiction film, the Home Office has designed it to spot a 'criminal' or terrorist before they have done anything wrong.
Status Park 4
Snoop centre: The 'Status Park 4' building near Heathrow monitors travellers
The building's address is, some might say sinisterly, called Status Park 4.
But the intrusiveness of the system at the heart of Government's so-called 'e-Borders' scheme has provoked such fury among civil liberties campaigners that some consider it akin to a modern-day Stasi headquarters.
All the information passengers give to travel agents, including home addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, passport details and the names of family members, is shared with an unknown number of Government agencies for 'analysis' and stored for up to ten years.
But even as the 'profiling' system goes live, its reliability is being called into question.
An internal Home Office document obtained by The Mail on Sunday reveals that during testing one 'potential suspect' turned out to be an airline passenger with a spinal injury flying into Britain with his nurse.
'Suspect' requests likely to cause innocent holidaymakers to get 'red flags' as potential terrorists include ordering a vegetarian meal, asking for an over-wing seat and travelling with a foreign-born husband or wife.
The system will also 'red flag' passengers buying a one-way ticket and making a last-minute reservation and those with a history of booking tickets and not showing up for the flights.
A previous history of travel to the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iran will also trigger an alarm, as will those with a record of sponsoring an immigrant from any of these countries.
Starting during the Easter holiday rush, millions of people will be checked by the new National Border Targeting Centre (NBTC).
By the end of the year the NBTC, which is recruiting 250 staff, will have been relocated to another office near Manchester Airport and will be analysing the movements of 120million UK travellers.
Initially it will target airlines but will be expanded to check passengers on ferries and trains, including some journeys within the UK.
At the heart of the system is a highly classified computer algorithm designed to pick out people to be searched, questioned by security staff or barred from flying.
An internal Home Office Border and Immigration Agency document explains how Britain's new system will work.
Written by Tim Rymer, head of the Joint Border Operations Centre, the forerunner to the new NBTC, it explains how it will use 'Passenger Name Record' (PNR) information given when travellers buy a ticket.
The document, written in March last year after a trial examining 30million passengers, reveals: 'PNR is checked against profiles of behavioural patterns which indicate risk activity.
Status Park 4 sign
Not welcome: The sign at the entrance to the HQ
'Profiles are run to identify behaviour, not to identify individuals, and are based on evidence and intelligence.'
Mr Rymer revealed that the information secured from the airlines for e-Borders would then also be available to other unnamed Government departments and held for up to ten years.
He wrote: 'E-Borders acts as a single window for carriers to provide data to Government.'
The system is bound to cause concerns about the handling of confidential personal data.
But Mr Rymer reported that he was 'confident our use of PNR data is proportionate and complies with robust data-protection safeguards'.
Intending to show how his team double-checked the computerised suspect reports, Mr Rymer admitted: 'Profiling identified a potential suspect; however further examination of his booking details revealed that the passenger was suffering from a spinal injury and was being escorted by a nurse.
'In this way the PNR information enabled the passenger to be eliminated from the profile match.'
Others flagged up then eliminated as suspects included travellers with comments on their bookings including: 'Please treat passenger with sensitivity - death in the family' or 'Wheelchair requested - broken leg'.
The system was originally designed to identify suspect freight shipments.
Until now international no-fly lists have been based on painstaking intelligence and people's criminal records.
But the Border and Immigration Agency's new 'rule-based targeting' system works by building up a complete picture of passengers' travel history and the detailed information they give to airlines and travel agencies when booking a flight.
It compares these answers and requests to other government databases and also shares the information with other countries around the world. The computer then makes value judgments about whether peculiar decisions and requests fit its secret terrorist or criminal profiles.
In the United States, where the Department of Homeland Security has been running a similar system for several years, people with a poor driving record have been subjected to further checks.
The American system has also been criticised for awarding so-called 'terrorism points' to passengers depending on their level of 'suspicious' travel activity.
The Home Office argues the e-Borders system will 'transform our border control to ensure greater security, effectiveness and efficiency'.
'To do so,' the department says, 'we will make full use of the latest technology to provide a way of collecting and analysing information on everyone who travels to or from the United Kingdom.'
But the UK system, and others across Europe that all share their passenger data, are facing increasing criticism.
The EU's Home Affairs Committee is currently carrying out an inquiry examining whether the use of profiling, particularly when it focuses on particular ethnic groups, is illegal.
In searching for terrorists, and flagging people who have travelled to the Middle East or Pakistan, the system is likely to pick out a high proportion of Muslims.
In its initial report the EU committee says using this data is against EU regulations and the practice is leading to a lack of trust in law enforcement and the fear of discrimination.
It adds that it is 'concerned [the] system providing for the collection of personal data of passengers travelling to the EU could provide a basis for profiling...on the basis of race or ethnicity'.
And the EU report continues: 'Repeated concerns raised by the [European] Parliament in connection with racial, ethnic and behavioural profiling in the context of data protection, law-enforcement co-operation, exchange of data and intelligence, aviation and transport security, immigration and border management and anti-discrimination measures have not so far been adequately addressed.'
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Smith revealed the data in an answer to a question from Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne.
She said, “As at 26 November 2008, the youngest person with a profile on the National DNA Database was aged under one year and the oldest was over 90 years old.” Just for absolute clarity, she added that “the youngest person to have had a profile added to the NDNAD was under one year old, and the oldest was over 90 years old, at the time the profile was added.”Smith was at pains to ensure that her answer did not breach anyone's human rights, pointing out that she couldn't disclose the precise age of the nongenarian subject, “as it would constitute personal data as defined by Article 2 of the European Data Protection Directive: information relating to an identified or identifiable individual.”She also reassured Huhne that she had declared back in December that the government would take immediate steps to remove the DNA profiles of children aged under ten from the DNA repository.
Smith gave no indication as to whether the baby and the oldie were actual criminals or suspects. It is of course unlikely, though not impossible, that the nation's youth are getting up to naughties before they can walk.
In response Huhne said: “It is illegal, immoral and ineffective to keep the DNA of a baby on a national police database as if they had committed some felony. The sooner the Home Secretary implements the European Court’s ruling that our DNA database contravenes the right to privacy, the better."“Since the DNA database began, nearly 1.1 million children have had their DNA stored without their permission. Children have become the soft target of a random DNA policy,” he fumed.
This comes after a series of other revelations including:
New law to allow police to collect DNA in secret from teacups
By Jason Lewis
First published 19th October 2008MI5 and the police may be allowed to secretly collect genetic samples from items such as cigarette butts and teacups under new laws that could massively expand the national DNA database.
The powers would allow investigators to break in to suspects’ homes to collect DNA which could then be shared with foreign governments to check for links to crime and terrorism.
The new law, being discussed by Parliament, would mean the ‘stolen’ samples – thousands of which have already been taken by the security services – would be admissible in court and at a stroke hugely expand the Government’s controversial DNA database.
Concern: Minister Lord West wants data shared between governments
But human rights activists fear the new powers could lead to more innocent people having their DNA stored and, due to cross-contamination, being wrongly accused of crimes or terrorism.
The proposals, which are contained in the Counter-Terrorism Bill, were outlined last week by Security Minister Lord West in the wake of Labour’s unsuccessful attempt to introduce legislation to hold terror suspects for 42 days without charge.
The move comes despite growing fears about the rapid expansion of the national database, which stores the details of 4.2million people, including 573,639 who have not been convicted, cautioned or reprimanded for any offence.
Lord West said: ‘During surveillance, a DNA sample may be obtained without a warrant. A good example might be where a person discards a cigarette or a drinks container. It can be collected covertly and a sample taken.
‘Or, should a covert human intelligence source be used, the person under surveillance could visit the source’s house and a sample could be taken from a teacup.
‘There is a real need to share this data internationally, especially where terrorism is concerned.’
But opponents say taking DNA samples without their being cross-contaminated is difficult, even for trained specialists.
Last night Dr Helen Wallace of watchdog group Genewatch said: ‘This kind of DNA collection leads to a real danger of cross-contamination or genetic samples being taken from a person who may prove to be innocent.’
Gareth Crossman, policy director of human rights group Liberty, said: ‘Authorities will be able to take our DNA without our knowledge, without any formal legal process, and retain it regardless of whether a suspect is arrested.
‘It will be carte blanche for them to take DNA and to keep that in perpetuity.’
Outrage as DNA profile of seven-month-old baby is added to register
By JASON LEWIS
Published 15 September 2007
SHOCKED: MP Keith Vaz
The DNA profile of a seven-month-old baby girl has been added to the register
The DNA of a seven-month-old baby girl has been added to the police's national database designed to identify criminals.
The disclosure reignited the row over the growth of Britain's DNA register, which is the biggest in the world.
Human rights groups accuse the Government of building a genetic record of the entire UK population by stealth.
It was revealed this year that more than 100,000 DNA samples had been taken from children, aged ten to 16, who have never been charged or convicted of any crime.
Should you have the right to remove your personal details from the DNA database if you've never committed a crime? Tell us below in reader comments
Now the news that a baby's genetic profile is stored on the system saw leading campaigners react with horror and disgust.
She is one of 47 children under ten whose DNA has been recorded and will be retained by the police until after their deaths.
Civil liberties organisation Liberty said the baby girl's case was "a chilling example of how out of control the DNA database has become".
Children can be added to the register only with their parents' agreement, but Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: "This baby has not given her consent to be on this criminal database. Who knows the circumstances that led to her parent or guardian agreeing to put her profile on the system?"
She added: "DNA is the most intimate material. It can be used to identify who your parents are, and indicate your life expectancy.
"Should the police be able to keep this information about this little girl ? and thousands like her ? forever?"
Commons Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz said that the case was "unbelievable".
The former Europe Minister added: "This is not what this system was set up for and I will be demanding an explanation from Ministers."
The Mail on Sunday has learned that the baby's DNA sample was taken earlier this year by West Yorkshire Police.
According to the National Policing Improvement Agency, it was loaded on to the database "with parental/guardian consent as a volunteer victim".
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman confirmed they had taken the baby's DNA, but said it was at the request of West Midlands Police.
However, the Birmingham-based force refused to discuss the circumstances of the case.
Amazingly, a spokeswoman claimed they could not find any details without the child's name or date of birth.
The information about the baby girl's record came out after a Freedom of Information request by The Mail on Sunday which revealed that DNA samples of 47 children under ten were kept on the system.
Gavin McKinnon, of the NPIA, said profiles of 38 children were put on the register by police in England and Wales and nine by forces in Scotland.
Two of the English and Welsh samples were taken "following police contact", the others were "volunteered with written consent of a parent or guardian".
He added: "Separate written consent is also needed to load the sample on to the database."
In Scotland, where the age of criminal responsibility is eight, the nine samples were provided by children who had been arrested for an offence.
Mr McKinnon said that in England and Wales "officers cannot take samples from a child under ten without a parent or guardian's consent."
He added: "Volunteer samples for upload to the database can play an important role in an investigation."
They are normally taken to "eliminate an individual's profile" ? for example, witnesses at a crime scene ? and where there is a "need to establish a family link as part of an investigation".
A Home Office spokeswoman said samples from children under ten were only taken and retained on the database "with explicit written consent" of their parents.
She said: "Anyone can apply to the chief constable of the force that took the sample to ask for it to be removed."
But civil rights campaigners say that, in practice, it is very difficult to get your DNA wiped off the register.
Last week lawyers from Liberty finally won a six-month battle with Avon and Somerset Constabulary to have the DNA of an innocent 13-year-old boy removed from the national database. He had been falsely accused of writing graffiti.
The database permanently retains the DNA of approximately four million people.
This month Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Sedley called for it to be expanded to include everyone living in or visiting the UK.
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Prince Charles’s charity and a £10k 'illegal donation' to Tory women
By Jason Lewis
08th March 2009
Prince Charles's charity The Prince’s Trust is facing an investigation into a potentially illegal donation to the Conservative Party.
The £10,050 was channelled through the group Women2Win, which is backed by David Cameron and campaigns to get more women Tory candidates.
Last night, Women2Win said it was prepared to repay the money to the trust - as the Charity Commission said it was examining what appears to be a clear contravention of the law banning charities from funding political parties.
Fundraiser: Anne Jenkin with husband and MP Bernard and, right, as a 'rock chick' at a party with Tory leader David Cameron
Women2Win is a members’ association of the Tory Party with its official address at Conservative Central Office.
At the centre of the inquiry is a joint fundraising lunch arranged by The Prince’s Trust with Women2Win at the Commons nearly two years ago, with Lady Thatcher as guest of honour.
Twelve people paid a total of £20,100 to meet her. The money was collected by The Prince’s Trust, which then paid half the proceeds to Women2Win.
The women’s group, headed by Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Theresa May, then registered the payment as a political donation with the Electoral Commission.
Prince Charles's charity The Prince's Trust faces an investigation into whether £10,050 was donated illegally to the Conservative Party
There were further questions because Commons rules ban using its facilities for party fundraising. Selling tickets at £1,675 a head for lunch with Lady Thatcher seems a clear breach.
Months before the lunch in October 2007, David Cameron was censured by a Parliamentary standards inquiry for using the Commons to hold similar money-making dinners for donors.
Last night, The Prince’s Trust claimed that senior officials on its board, which is headed by Prince Charles, its founder and President, had not approved nor been involved in the decision to hold the event with Women2Win.
The trust said the lunch had been set up by a member of its fundraising staff, although it admitted that the head of its major donors unit, Annie Williams, had been one of those to attend the event.
Also heavily involved, the trust said, was Anne Jenkin, a member of its women’s leadership group and founder and treasurer of Women2Win.
She is a political and charity events consultant and married to Bernard Jenkin, MP for North Essex and a former Tory deputy chairman.
Last night it was revealed that Mr Jenkin had used his Parliamentary privileges to book a Commons dining room for the lunch.
Last year Women2Win disclosed that it had received more than £50,000 in donations, the biggest being £10,050 from The Prince’s Trust Trading Ltd. Women2Win also gave £28,500 to the Conservative Party in 2008.
Last night The Prince’s Trust acknowledged the arrangement with Women2Win may have breached charity law and said it would hold discussions with the Charity Commission.
A trust spokesman said: ‘The decision was taken by a member of our fundraising staff in good faith.’
He said lunch with Lady Thatcher was originally ‘gifted’ to the trust after it was auctioned off at an earlier fundraising event which raised £400,000 for the charity.
The trust decided to sell tickets for the lunch to try to raise more cash and invited Mrs Jenkin to sell further tickets via Women2Win.
The spokesman added: ‘We secured further seats through our networks. Additional seats were secured by Anne Jenkin, a supporter of the trust and Women2Win.
'The proceeds from these additional seats were split between the two organisations.’
A Charity Commission spokeswoman said it would investigate and has contacted the trust.
She said that last year the commission had taken action against a charity that donated £7,500 to the Labour Party. Labour had been forced to return the cash.
Last night a Women2Win spokeswoman said: ‘We will put the money aside and once talks have taken place with the trust, be prepared to give it back if necessary.’
Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said if the money was not returned, the Tories face a complaint to the Commons authorities.
Anne Jenkin was not available for comment.
The Women2Win spokeswoman added: ‘She agreed with the trust to secure further donors to attend a lunch on the basis of an agreed split of funds between the trust and Women2Win.
‘The subsequent payment from The Princes Trust Trading Ltd was declared with the Electoral Commission in the normal way.
‘At the time the event was being planned, there was confusion about the rules concerning use of Commons facilities and political fundraising.
'Bernard Jenkin, in whose name the room was booked, will be writing to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to ask him to investigate whether any rule has been broken.’
Monday, 9 March 2009
G20 summit: £530-a-night suites, his ’n’ hers bathtubs and a ‘pillow menu’ await the world's leading finance chiefs
By Jason Lewis
07th March 2009
With its four-poster beds, his and hers baths and outdoor hot-tubs, the luxurious South Lodge Hotel normally markets itself as the perfect place for romantic nights away.
But next weekend the 89-room Jacobean-style mansion and its 93-acre grounds will be turned into a fortress to guard the world’s top financial leaders meeting for a controversial summit.
The hotel, deep in the Sussex countryside, will play host to the discussions which will shape how they react to the global financial crisis.
Luxurious: South Lodge Hotel is to host the upcoming G20 summit
Yet while unemployment soars and families face mounting hardship, the G20 – the collective name for the finance ministers and central bank governors from the European Union and 19 of the world’s richest nations (many of whom are accused of contributing to the economic problems) – will want for nothing.
Normally in the quiet winter months the hotel tries to attract couples looking for a romantic weekend away.
It is currently running ‘Do Not Disturb’ deals from £250 a night. The brochure describes the offer as ‘For “grown-ups” only – a break specifically created for all those who never seem to get a moment to themselves.’
It adds: ‘Close the door on the life outside and enjoy a luxurious private junior suite equipped with a roomful of items to make your stay totally relaxing. Stylish surroundings mixed with 21st Century mod cons and sumptuous furnishings with plenty of space to just chill out. Even romantic dinners can be served in your room!’
Other treats offered by the hotel include two £380-a-night suites with baths that are side by side so couples can chat as they bathe. The twin roll-top baths are conveniently separated by a champagne holder. Other suites boast twin showers, so couples can enjoy a shower together without having to forfeit comfort.
Next week will see the world’s financial leaders flown in by helicopter to a ‘total exclusion zone’ of road blocks, CCTV cameras and razor-wire fences designed to keep out the assorted anarchists, environmentalists and anti-globalisation campaigners planning ‘direct action’ and violence which has marred previous meetings.
South Lodge is the kind of place where expensive PR campaigns like the above take place
But this hotel prides itself on being the ultimate private getaway. Its brochure says: ‘Excluding all outside distractions and ensuring the undivided focus of our entire team, you can have your own distinguished country house and its grounds, plus the unequivocal attention of our award-winning executive chef and his brigade.
‘For conferences or occasions that require high levels of confidentiality and security you are able to seal off the grounds and ensure complete privacy and safety.’
Inside this protective bubble, the sumptuously appointed venue near Horsham, West Sussex, will offer the political moneymen everything from fine-dining to a choice of pillows.
‘Snuggle up,’ the hotel brochure says. ‘All our gorgeous beds each have divinely comfortable handmade mattresses and breathable hand-finished duvets.
‘But that’s not all, each room also has a pillow menu so you can choose the type of pillow to suit you and the way you sleep!’
Two award-winning restaurants will help delegates through the delicate negotiations with dishes such as quail egg, pigeon breast, sea bass ‘en papillote’, with potatoes, fennel, smoked garlic and ginger, grilled lobster and fillet of Sussex beef.
Once a weekend retreat for Winston Churchill, who was friends with its former owners, today’s political leaders, including Chancellor Alistair Darling and President Barack Obama’s Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, will be treated to what is described as ‘an irresistible fusion of the past with the present’.
The hotel also has a suite named after comedian Ronnie Corbett, though it is not known who will stay in it next weekend
Churchill’s favourite room is now a £530-a-night luxury suite, and the hotel boasts that ‘every single room is individually styled and designed so that no two are the same.
‘A choice of 89 sumptuous rooms awaits with gorgeous soft furnishings, plump cushions and quirky furniture in keeping with the stature of the house.
‘We provide flawless attention to detail and homely charm in bucket loads as well as the most spectacular views over the South Downs.’
Special features in the top-rate rooms include television screens hung above the bath and in-room spas which massage the bather with jets of water.
Bizarrely, the hotel also boasts a Ronnie Corbett suite, named after the diminutive television comedian.
Last week staff told The Mail on Sunday that their managers had said they should expect some 800 guests next weekend. At least 200 members of staff, half of them agency workers, have been booked to work and security will be tight.
The hotel sits at the end of a sweeping gravel driveway surrounded by rhododendrons off the B2110 Brighton Road just outside the village of Lower Beeding. It boasts 12 conference rooms across three floors linked by Italian marble floored hallways and staircases.
The finance ministers are expected to hold their main meeting in the ground-floor Gladstone room, which yesterday was laid out in preparation for a wedding.
Carpeted and with small tapestries on the walls, it too boasts panoramic views of the
South Downs and has an outdoor champagne bar.
The Treasury, which is overseeing the G20 meeting, has not released details of the summit venue, saying only that the meeting will take place in West Sussex. The US Treasury, however, has announced the venue as Horsham.
And residents around South Lodge have had visits from the police and received letters from the hotel telling them that ‘a high profile’ event is to take place.
The letter reads: ‘Dear neighbour, I am writing to let you know that Her Majesty’s Treasury are organising a high profile and therefore a high security meeting at our hotel.
‘It is probably going to entail a high police presence in the area but apart from this there should be no effect to your daily lives.’
Yesterday, workmen were rushing to complete work installing new CCTV cameras in the grounds.
Signs had already been posted around the bridleways and footpaths surrounding the hotel grounds alerting residents that the grounds would be closed next weekend.
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
Police drop probe into colonel arrested for allegedly leaking civilian casualty figures
By Jason Lewis
28th February 2009
Former BBC journalist Rachel Reid denied having an affair with Lt Col McNally
Police have dropped an investigation into a British colonel who was arrested in Afghanistan for allegedly leaking secret civilian casualty figures to a female human rights worker.
Special Branch officers had been examining claims that Lt Col Owen McNally gave confidential information to Rachel Reid, a Human Rights Watch researcher.
At the same time, an internal Nato report, which casts new doubt on military claims about the number of civilians killed, has been passed to The Mail on Sunday.
Lt Col McNally was arrested by military police last month and flown back to Britain to face allegations that he had breached the Official Secrets Act.
The divorced colonel, who ran Nato’s civilian casualty tracking cell in Kabul, was said to be ‘close’ to the charity worker, whose organisation claims civilians killed
in Afghanistan far exceed the military figures.
Ms Reid, who is a former BBC journalist, described the ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ whispers about her as a ‘vicious slur’ and last month she denied having an affair with Lt Col McNally. Last night, a Scotland Yard spokeswoman confirmed it would not be pursuing a case against the career soldier.
But the Nato document passed to The Mail on Sunday raised further questions about the military’s assessment of the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan.
The report, from the secret Nato Joint Operations-INTEL Information System (JOIIS), includes detailed maps of insurgent attacks and reveals that these increased by a third last year.
It also reveals that roadside bombs and resulting casualties are up by about 30 per cent in the past 12 months.
Crucially, the document shows the UN consistently claiming more than double the number of civilian deaths admitted by the military. Last year the military reported 1,300 deaths and the UN 2,120.
A Nato source stated that its records only included deaths it had been able to verify. An MoD spokesman said its own inquiry into Lt Col McNally was continuing.
Now Colonel is accused of giving '3,000 Afghan deaths' details to UN
By Jason Lewis
09th February 2009
A British colonel arrested for allegedly leaking secret Afghan civilian casualty figures after befriending a woman human rights worker is said to have given similar help to a second female aid worker.
The new allegations centre on a senior United Nations official who this week will publish a damning report claiming that 3,000 innocent people were killed by both sides in Afghanistan last year – many by British and American military strikes.
The report will disclose a 45 per cent increase in civilian deaths in the past year – mainly caused by Nato troops calling in airstrikes against the Taliban – after detailed briefings by the officer.
Lt Col ‘Seamus’ McNally is being investigated over claims that he gave confidential information to Human Rights Watch researcher Rachel Reid.
However, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Lt Col McNally also gave detailed help to Irish-born Norah Niland, the UN’s chief human rights officer in Kabul. There is no suggestion that he broke any rules in doing so.
Ms Niland is barred from talking to the Press but a senior UN official confirmed that she had been ‘friendly with Seamus – but nothing more’.
Last week it was revealed that Lt Col McNally faces allegations that he breached the Official Secrets Act by giving confidential material to Ms Reid.
It was alleged that Ms Reid, a former BBC journalist, received the information after they became ‘close’. Ms Reid described the claims as a ‘nudge, nudge – wink, wink’ leak and a ‘vicious slur’ which suggested ‘I had some kind of “relationship” with McNally’.
The UN official, who asked not to be named, said of the help given to Ms Niland: ‘The front door of the UN and the backdoor military compounds in Kabul are opposite each other and we all knew Seamus well. He gave us regular formal briefings on civilian casualty figures – that was his job.’
The UN report is expected to show that about 1,000 civilians were killed by international and Afghan forces last year, including more than 500 who died in airstrikes. The UN said 1,523 civilians were killed by both sides in 2007.
Another senior Kabul source questioned what Lt Col McNally had done wrong if he had revealed casualty details. The source said: ‘Are the British military saying that there are two sets of figures – one sanitised for the “hearts and minds” campaign and another more damning set of statistics showing that we are responsible for killing thousands of innocent people? Is McNally being investigated for revealing the truth?’
The Ministry of Defence was refusing to discuss the issue last week. It merely said Lt Col McNally was being returned to Britain for questioning.
Motorway cameras let police and MI5 track all car trips across the country
By Jason Lewis
1st March 2009
The police and MI5 have been given access to a network of infrared cameras that can track millions of car journeys across Britain.
The 1,090 cameras read numberplates of cars on all motorways and major trunk roads, recording the time, date and location of the vehicle and storing the data for five years.
The Highways Agency installed the bright green cameras to calculate journey times. But last week a senior agency official confirmed they are being linked to a police database.
Driven round the bend: All car journeys on Britain's motorways could be tracked
Thousands of CCTV cameras across the country have also been converted to read numberplates – as have mobile cameras. Police helicopters can spot plates from the air and officers have live access to London’s Congestion Charge cameras.
The database is central to an operation orchestrated by the Association of Chief Police Officers and backed by £32million of Government cash.
But privacy campaigners attacked the move. Simon Davies, of Privacy International, said: ‘This is the latest layer in a plan to monitor people from the second they leave their front door to the moment they return. It is being constructed in secret.’
Inquiry into police chiefs' £18m-a-year private 'firm'
First published 28th February 2009
Under scrutiny: ACPO is facing demands for reform
The Home Office has launched an internal inquiry into its funding of Britain's most powerful policing body, the Association of Chief Police Officers, after The Mail on Sunday disclosed it was being run as a private business earning £18million a year.
Officials at all major departments have been asked to draw up a detailed list of what money they gave the organisation during the past three years.
The association, which advises the Government and oversees national police policy on everything from anti-terrorism to speed cameras, is facing demands for its reform.
Senior staff at the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, the Crime Reduction and Community Safety Group, the UK Border Agency, the Police Reform Unit and the Serious Organised Crime Agency have been asked for a full breakdown of how much cash has been handed over.
Civil servants are said to be alarmed that the association has been given £32million from public funds in two years. And they are asking why the annual income from 'project' work for the police and Home Office has risen from £1.3million in 2005 to £15million.
They also want to know where millions of pounds kept in an association cash account comes from. The organisation has £15.8million in assets, including £9.2million 'cash at bank and in hand'.
It was also discovered that the organisation markets 'police approval' logos to firms selling anti-theft devices.
A Home Office spokeswoman said the move was not a 'review' and was being done 'for internal information'.
• The chief constable pipped at the post to become Metropolitan Police Commissioner is being tipped to take over as the £150,000-a-year president of the Association of Chief Police Officers. Sir Hugh Orde, 50, top policeman in Northern Ireland, has the backing of more than half of the UK's 44 police chiefs to take over in July.