The senior policeman in charge of the Whitehall leak investigation has given an account of how consent was obtained that calls the Speaker of the House's version of events into question.
In a letter (pdf) to Jacqui Smith yesterday, leaked to Wikileaks today, Met assistant commissioner Robert Quick wrote: "The officers [investigating the leak] ... were satisfied that the Serjeant at Arms understood that police had no power to search in the absence of a warrant and therefore could only do so with her written consent or that of the Speaker."
Yesterday, the Speaker Michael Martin told the Commons: "I have been told that the police did not explain, as they are required to do, that the Serjeant was not obliged to consent or that a warrant could have been insisted on."
The contradiction will pile further pressure on the Speaker, who has been heavily criticised for his role in the raid on Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green's offices last Thursday.
Quick's letter said that after the police explained the nature and purpose of the planned search, the Serjeant at Arms Jill Pay said she would seek legal advice. She gave her consent for the search the following day, having obtained the advice, Quick wrote.
A spokeswoman for the Speaker's Office said the matter was being considered by the House authorities. ®