Key's office ordered records released

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 17:07 31/07/2013
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Prime Minister John Key has confirmed his chief of staff Wayne Eagleson told Parliamentary Service staff to supply records to a ministerial inquiry after the department initially refused to co-operate.

The revelation turns the spotlight on the prime minister's office after it was revealed yesterday a contractor for Parliamentary Service handed over the phone records of Fairfax Media journalist Andrea Vance to the inquiry.

Former top civil servant David Henry was asked by the prime minister to track down who leaked a copy of a report on the Government Communications Security Bureau to Vance.

Parliament's privileges committee today launched an inquiry into how Vance's phone records came to be handed over after Speaker David Carter yesterday apologised for the breach.

Carter said yesterday that a low-level contractor had "inadvertently" handed over Vance's phone records, even though Henry never sought them.

In Parliament this afternoon, Key tabled communications between the Henry inquiry and Datacom which showed a request was made for records relating to "any contact" between a list of ministers' personal landlines and Vance's cellphone, and personal landline. That includes calls in which Vance's numbers showed up in calls "to and from" ministers.

In a statement last night, Henry insisted he did not request Vance's phone records.

The document tabled by Key shows that in an initial search Datacom found no record of calls "to and from" ministers' landlines and Vance.

The contractor then produced a log of all calls to and from from Vance's line over a three-month period.

In response, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet - which supplied administrative support to Henry - responded: "Gents, many thanks for this. Let's be clear - we did not request the second report you've attached here - i.e. the one showing all calls to and from the numbers of interest. We're not interested in looking at that."

Fairfax understands Parliamentary Service had refused two requests for records from the Henry inquiry - and Key today confirmed that was the case.

He also confirmed Eagleson became involved at that point, notifying Parliamentary Service that ministers and their staff had been told to co-operate with the inquiry so there was no problem handing over their records.

That followed an edict to minsters' offices from Eagleson that they and their staff should co-operate fully with the inquiry. Eagleson had made the edict known to Parliamentary Service and told it he believed they could release that information.

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But Key said it was clear to everyone that the request was in relation to ministers and not journalists.

"He was clear that was for minsters and staff, not journalists," he said.

"Everyone understood that was outside the terms of reference."

Meanwhile, there are questions over what NZ First leader Winston Peters knew about the phone records collected by Parliamentary Service after he grilled Key in Parliament on June 5, before Henry's report on the GCSB leak was released.

Peters questioned Key about phone records shown to the Henry inquiry which he claimed to show "an inexplicable connection between one minister's phone calls and information leaks exclusively to one journalist".

No such phone records were ever referred to in the Henry inquiry's final report.

Peters today refused to say whether he had been acting on specific information when he raised the phone records in Parliament. 

- Stuff

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