Leak inquiry 'unprecedented' says ST

Sunday Times: Cabinet anger

The Sunday Times has denied handing over any cash for a series of leaked documents which this week prompted an “unprecedented” Government mole hunt.

Another Government inquiry, into who leaked the Hutton report to The Sun six months ago has officially drawn a blank.

In a twist worthy of the sitcom Yes Minister the Sunday Times this week published a leaked document which revealed the extent of Government concern about a 15-month series of leaks to the paper.

In it cabinet secretary Andrew Turnbull said: “This [the leaks] cannot be allowed to continue. I therefore think that we have reached a point where we need to take stronger action to counter it.”

The Sunday Times reported that up to £1 million is being spent on trying to find the source, or sources, of 26 Government documents which have been leaked to the paper.

These documents have been used to ?? How Tim Henman was given an OBE to “add interest” to the New Year Honours ?? Cabinet splits over ID cards ?? Private concerns in Whitehall over America’s strategy in Iraq.

Managing editor Richard Caseby said: “It seems like a waste of public money to spend as much as a million pounds on a Whitehall leak inquiry but it shows how shaken the Government is by the Sunday Times stories. A detective agency run by former MI5 officers has been engaged to put a stop to this string of exclusives.

“A few jealous journalists have suggested that the Sunday Times paid money for this information. That’s categorically not true.”

“It’s unprecedented for the Government to divert this amount of time, energy and money on pursuit of a journalistic source. A Government will always object to its private discussions being put in the public domain.”

Sunday Times political editor David Cracknell, who has received many of the leaked documents, said: “It felt a bit strange when you find your own name being mentioned in Cabinet and Blair saying things like the culprit will be found.” Cracknell added: “Some Government figures have been trying to smear us by saying that we are paying for these leaks. We haven’t paid for anything this is just traditional journalistic endeavour. It’s not a breach of national security it is just material which is embarrassing to some ministers.”

On Wednesday the Department for Constitutional Affairs revealed that it failed to find the source which leaked a copy of the Hutton report to The Sun.

Political editor Trevor Kavanagh received details of report the day before it was published on January 28.

A furious Lord Hutton ordered an inquiry into the leak, but this week the DCA said “the source of the leak remains unknown”.

By Dominic Ponsford

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