14 Oct 2011

Minister dumps documents in park bins

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin has been photographed throwing government documents, including correspondence on terrorism and security, into park bins.

Oliver Letwin found dumping documents in the bin (getty)

Mr Letwin was photographed by the Daily Mirror, dumping papers in a park close to Downing Street on five separate occasions.

The newspaper said that the MP has thrown away over 100 papers, including correspondence on terrorism and national security.

One document is thought to have contained detailed information about how intelligence chiefs “failed to get to the truth” on claims that Britain was involved in controversial terrorist interrogations.

The papers include five letters from the intelligence and security committee and date from 27 July, 2010, to September 30, 2011, says the newspaper, while another document refers to links between al-Qaeda and Pakistan.

Pictures published today show the MP as he is about to drop papers in a bin while talking on the phone. Another photo shows the West Dorset MP apparently handing papers to a cleaner holding a bag.

A spokesman for the MP denied that the dumped documents contained any sensitive information.

“Oliver Letwin does some of his parliamentary and constituency correspondence in the park before going to work and sometimes disposes of copies of letters there.

“They are not documents of a sensitive nature,” the spokesman said.

Downing street response

Mr Letwin has promised not to throw official papers in public bins in future, Downing Street responded.

A spokeswoman for Number 10 said that the Cabinet Office was “looking into” whether any sensitive material was among the papers dumped in the park bins.

In the light of what has been reported, the Cabinet Office is looking into it, Downing Street spokesperson

“Our understanding is that there were no classified documents,” she said. “Most of the business which Mr Letwin does in the park is constituency-based.

“In the light of what has been reported, the Cabinet Office is looking into it.”

The spokeswoman said that Mr Cameron has not yet spoken to Mr Letwin about his use of public bins.

Asked what the Prime Minister’s view was, the spokeswoman said: “Clearly, it’s not a sensible way to dispose of documents.

“Mr Letwin has agreed he will not dispose of documents in this way again.”

‘Strange behaviour’

The data watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said: “We are aware of the allegations and are making inquiries.

“Keeping personal data secure is a key principle of the Data Protection Act and the ICO takes any breach of that principle very seriously.”

It’s very strange behaviour Ed Miliband, Labour leader

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “I think it’s treating important papers with contempt, really.

“If it’s true that there were constituents who’d written to him and he was looking at constituency letters and they just ended up in the bin, I don’t think it’s the right way to act and the right way to treat people and people’s concerns.

He added: “It’s very strange behaviour. I think most people would think, actually, you’re dealing with sensitive papers, you’re dealing with sensitive correspondence, you should treat it in a sensitive way.”