Damian Green had to go, but police face questions – Jeremy Hunt
Theresa May had to sack Damian Green after he “lied” over what he knew about police claims to have found porn on his office computer, Jeremy Hunt has said.
The health secretary said the PM had acted with a “heavy heart” in firing the minister, her second-in-command.
Mr Hunt said questions remained about the conduct of the ex-police officer who leaked details of the pornography.
Mr Green continues to deny “hurtful” allegations that he downloaded and viewed the material.
But he admitted making “inaccurate and misleading” statements after the allegations, by retired Metropolitan Police detective Bob Quick, emerged last month in The Sunday Times.
He also apologised for making writer Kate Maltby, who says he made inappropriate advances towards her in 2015, feel uncomfortable.
Mr Quick and another retired detective, Neil Lewis, who told the BBC he had been “shocked” by the contents of Mr Green’s office computer, are being investigated for possible breaches of the Data Protection Act.
The Metropolitan Police, who referred the case to the regulator, said the pair were under investigation over the “apparent disclosure to the media of confidential material gathered during a police investigation in 2008”.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “These are serious allegations and we are investigating to determine whether the law has been broken and what further action is necessary including potential criminal prosecution.”
‘Sadness and regret’
Mr Green, 61, who as first secretary of state was effectively the PM’s deputy, is the third cabinet minister to resign in the space of two months – Sir Michael Fallon and Priti Patel both quit in November.
Mr Green, who campaigned for Remain in last year’s EU referendum and had been a leading voice in Cabinet for a “softer” Brexit, has been a friend of the prime minister’s since their Oxford University days.
A Downing Street source said his resignation was a matter of sadness and regret for Mrs May, who is in Poland to announce a new defence treaty.
But as prime minister she had to make sure members of her government abided by the ministerial code, the source added.
The PM may decide not to appoint a new First Secretary of State, Downing Street said, but a replacement for Mr Green’s other role, as Cabinet Office minster, would be announced in the New Year.
May a lonelier figure now
Analysis by BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg
It is not likely that Mr Green’s exit will suddenly unleash another bout of turmoil.
But the prime minister clearly took this decision very seriously.
She is a politician who guards her views, her own persona very closely. To lose one of the few who understood her, who she trusts, leaves her a lonelier figure.
The Cabinet Office inquiry into Mr Green’s conduct was prompted by claims he had made unwanted advances towards Kate Maltby in 2015.
But it was widened to include claims legal pornography had been found on his computer after a police raid on his Commons office in 2008, after Bob Quick made the allegations in The Sunday Times.
Mr Green reacted to Mr Quick’s claims by saying he had not been told that “improper material” had been found on his Parliamentary computer.
But in his resignation letter, he said his statements could have been “clearer” and conceded that his lawyers had been informed by Met Police lawyers about their initial discovery in 2008 and the police had also raised the matter with him in a phone call in 2013.
“I apologise that my statements were misleading on this point,” he said.
Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was clear Mr Green had “lied” and said it was right that cabinet ministers were held to the “very highest standards of conduct” – but it was still a “sad moment”.
And he claimed “some of the actions of a retired police officer did not sit comfortably in a democracy”, something, he added, Theresa May “had made clear” in her letter to Mr Green.
Asked if his departure left Theresa May more isolated, Mr Hunt said “leadership is lonely” but she had shown “extraordinary resilience in very challenging circumstances” and was someone “who is capable of taking very difficult decisions”.
Conservative MP Chris Philp said Bob Quick and fellow retired detective Neil Lewis, who told the BBC he had been “shocked” by the material found on Mr Green’s office computer should be “investigated for misconduct in public office”.
An official report by the Cabinet Office found that public statements Mr Green made relating to what he knew about the claims were “inaccurate and misleading” and constituted a breach of the ministerial code.
The report also found that although there were “competing and contradictory accounts of what were private meetings” between himself and Ms Maltby, the investigation found her account “to be plausible”.
Her parents, Colin and Victoria Maltby, said in a statement they were not surprised to find that the inquiry found Mr Green to have been “untruthful as a minister, nor that they found our daughter to be a plausible witness”.
They praised their 31-year-old daughter for her courage in speaking out about the “abuse of authority”.
Ms Maltby is not commenting on Mr Green’s resignation until she receives more details from the Cabinet Office.