DEFENCE – STOLEN LAPTOP COMPUTER – 8 June 2000

Dr Julian Lewis: May I ask the Leader of the House a question of which I have given her prior notice because it is not one which she could normally be expected to answer unprepared? Will a Defence Minister make a statement in the House about what investigations, if any, the Ministry of Defence police are making into the circumstances whereby the Mirror reacquired a stolen laptop computer with military secrets on it, given that fact that my attempts to establish from The Mirror whether money was paid to the thieves rather than the police being informed of their identity have been rebutted with a degree of hysteria and abusiveness? It is a serious matter if a national newspaper pays thieves for stolen property to get headlines. Have any investigations been undertaken? I should be most grateful to the right hon. Lady if a statement could be made.

[Mrs Beckett: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his intention to raise the matter as that has enabled me to discover that an investigation – handled in the first instance by the British Transport police – is indeed under way. He will recall that the event took place at Paddington. The Ministry of Defence police are assisting with identification of property and so on. I fear that I cannot undertake to provide a Defence Minister to make a statement in the near future, but I understand the concern that the hon. Gentleman has expressed, and he has shown assiduity in raising the matter. I suspect that it might be possible for the MOD to make some information available to him and I shall certainly draw his remarks to its attention, but I understand that it is not yet in a position to do so.]