British minister bins documents in London park

14th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

British authorities launched a security inquiry Friday after a minister was seen throwing official documents into a rubbish bin in a London park, including papers about the rendition of terror suspects.

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin ripped up and dumped the papers in St James's Park, a short distance from Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street base, on five occasions, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported.

Cameron's official spokeswoman said the Cabinet Office would investigate whether any sensitive information was among the papers left in the park bins by Letwin.

"In the light of what has been reported, the Cabinet Office is looking into it," the spokeswoman said.

She said it was "our understanding is that there were no classified documents" and that "most of the business which Mr Letwin does in the park is constituency-based".

Letwin had also promised not to throw any more official papers in the bin.

"Mr Letwin has agreed he will not dispose of documents in this way again," the spokeswoman said.

The tabloid carried pictures of the minister talking on his mobile phone and disposing of the papers, one of which was reported to explain how intelligence bosses "failed to get the truth" on Britain's involvement in interrogations.

On one occasion he apparently could not find a bin and simply handed the papers to a litter collector.

Britain's data protection watchdog said it was checking whether Letwin had breached the law.

"We are aware of the allegations and are making inquiries," a spokesman for the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said.

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

A spokesman for the Conservative lawmaker denied there had been a security breach.

"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," the spokesman said.

"They are not documents of a sensitive nature," added the spokesman.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the main opposition Labour party, said Letwin had been "treating important papers with contempt", adding that it was "very strange behaviour."

Michael Dugher, a senior Labour lawmaker, said he had written to the head of Britain's civil service asking for an investigation to determine whether Letwin's actions amount to a security breach.

Letwin advises Cameron on a broad range of government business and has access to British government's most sensitive documents.

The embarrassing disclosure about Letwin is a fresh headache for Cameron as his defence minister Liam Fox faces growing pressure over claims about links to a man who posed as his advisor.

© 2011 AFP

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