Blair rules out terror leak probe

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Tony Blair has insisted in the strongest possible terms that there will be no independent inquiry into potential media leaks during high-profile anti-terror operations.

The prime minister was responding to suggestions from Conservative party leader David Cameron that police operation leaks could have originated from ministers or senior civil servants.

Shadow home secretary David Davis has since written to cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell requesting an inquiry.

The verbal sparring at prime minister's questions today follows remarks from the Metropolitan police's deputy assistant commissioner that the unofficial release of sensitive information was "beneath contempt".

In his speech to the Policy Exchange thinktank Peter Clarke specifically referred to the anti-terror raids in Birmingham earlier this year, in which nine people were arrested.

Mr Davis' letter to Sir Gus said: "Given the numerous leak inquiries under this government, including on matters as trivial as the disclosure of the wallpaper in No 10 Downing Street, I would have thought it almost automatic to have an inquiry into a leak relating to counter-terrorism law enforcement.

"In light of the acute concern expressed by the Met's head of counter-terrorism on a matter of national security, I trust that you will accept the clear public interest in proceeding with an inquiry on this occasion."

Earlier on in the House of Commons, Mr Cameron hinted that members of the press were aware of the raids before they took place.

In response the prime minister said that he "completely deprecated" leaks of sensitive information, insisting there was "no justification" for ever doing this when national security was at stake.

"Everyone should understand that when the police are conducting sensitive operations, it is incredibly important the information is kept confidential," he told MPs.

He went on to accuse the Tory leader's assertion that ministers or civil servants were involved in any leak as a "smear".

But Mr Blair concluded that the "strongest possible action" would be taken if new evidence came to light.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell quizzed the prime minister on the current battle between MPs to secure exemption from the Freedom of Information Act, accusing the government of having "something to hide".

Mr Blair replied: "I think this is a matter for the house and obviously since this is a private members bill, it would not be appropriate for the government to take a commitment one way or another."

All three leaders prefaced their opening remarks by paying tribute to the three British soldiers killed in Iraq during the last week.

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