Emails given to inquiry

Peter Dunne
Peter Dunne

Parliamentary Service gave a ministerial inquiry emails between UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne and Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance, it has emerged.

The revelation follows the resignation yesterday of Parliamentary Service head Geoff Thorn amid fallout from the Henry inquiry.

In documents set to be released this afternoon, it will be revealed that Parliamentary Service recalled the emails that it sent to inquiry head David Henry, who had been tasked with finding out who leaked a confidential report on the Government Communications Security Bureau to Vance.

Journalist Andrea Vance.
Journalist Andrea Vance.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) will issue a statement this afternoon saying the emails were never read and the attachments were destroyed.

But Dunne has come out swinging, saying he was "shocked beyond belief" by this afternoon's revelations and was seeking legal advice.

It has emerged that the inquiry was also provided with Vance's phone records and swipe-card records in an attempt to zero in on her confidential source.

But there has never been any hint that the inquiry was also provided with the full content of Vance and Dunne's emails.

The Henry report referred only to Dunne providing redacted versions of his emails.

Dunne resigned as revenue minister after refusing to release the content of the emails.

DPMC chief executive Andrew Kibblewhite said the documents to be released today showed that the emails between Dunne and Vance were sent to the Henry inquiry on May 21 by Parliamentary Service.

He said the service recalled the emails "within an hour", and the DPMC staffer assisting the Henry inquiry then deleted them.

Kibblewhite said they were not opened because the file format of the attachment could not be opened by the DPMC server.

He said that having gone through the emails, he wanted to correct an error.

On May 23, the inquiry administrator said Henry had discussed an issue with Ministerial Service and Prime Minister John Key's chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson.

"This is incorrect. David Henry did not speak to Mr Eagleson. Mr Henry discussed issues with me and I had a conversation with Mr Eagleson about whether Mr Dunne's emails could be released," he said.

DUNNE 'SHOCKED', SEEKING LEGAL ADVICE

Dunne said he was "shocked beyond belief" to learn today that the Parliamentary Service had given the Henry inquiry copies of the emails between himself and Vance.

"While I understand this was an inadvertent action, and that the file was returned within a very short period of time to Parliamentary Services, this is a serious breach of privacy," the MP said in a statement.

"No approval had been given or even sought for access to this material .

"The material was released to the inquiry on 21 May – the day before Mr Henry asked for access to my emails, which I refused.

"While I am further given to understand that the file was unable to be opened by the inquiry and have been assured therefore that none of the emails were actually read by the inquiry, I am nonetheless extremely concerned and angry about this gross, unauthorised breach of personal privacy, especially since it was my refusal to authorise access to the content of those emails that brought about my resignation as a minister," Dunne said.

He was now taking legal advice.

"Today's disclosure makes the forthcoming examination by the privileges committee of the way in which information was sought and released to the Henry inquiry all the more important.

"I am currently considering a request to give evidence to that committee," he said.

EAGLESON 'DIDN'T INFLUENCE RELEASE OF INFORMATION'

Eagleson this afternoon issued a press statement outlining the timeline of his exchanges with Parliamentary Service and Ministerial Services.

He said that after May 23 and before the Henry inquiry report was given to Key on June 5, he had "no further role in authorising or influencing the release of any further information" .

"As the Prime Minister has publicly stated, I did discuss with Mr Dunne's office the need for Mr Dunne to fully comply with requests for information from the Henry Inquiry," he said.

EAGLESON'S TIMELINE:

April 5: Inquiry terms of reference released.

April 19: I email SPSs asking for ministers and SPSs to co-operate with the inquiry.

May 8 or 9: Ministerial Services advises me that Parliamentary Service requires the necessary approvals before meeting the inquiry's request for information on ministers.

May 9: After a phone conversation with [Parliamentary Service general manager) Geoff Thorn, I send him an email in effect authorising the release of material. My email and telephone conversation related solely to ministers and their staff. At no time then or subsequently did I either raise the matter of Ms Vance's phone records, or be asked by Geoff Thorn for a view on whether they should be released.

May 21: Geoff Thorn calls me. He says that subsequent to the earlier information being provided to the inquiry team, Mr Henry has now asked to see the content of emails for one minister (Mr Dunne) and for a number of staff. I give immediate approval for the staff emails to be provided to the inquiry, and say that if the ministers involved were National MPs, I would authorise that as well. I indicate to Mr Thorn that I am uncomfortable authorising the release of the content of Mr Dunne's emails as he is a support party minister. I ask for time to consider the matter. Mr Thorn follows up with an email setting out the request (attached). He also indicates to me that as he would be overseas for the coming days there would be an acting GM.

May 22: I ring Mr Dunne's office and outline the situation. I say that I am not prepared to authorise the release of his emails, and his office responds they will put the request to Mr Dunne. His office rings me back, to say that for privacy reasons Mr Dunne is not prepared to give approval for the release of his emails but is happy to meet with Mr Henry to discuss the emails and related matters. I call the acting GM of Parliamentary Service and tell him that Parliamentary Service cannot release the emails without Mr Dunne's permission, and that a likely alternative is Mr Dunne meeting with Mr Henry. The a cting GM of Parliamentary Service says he will discuss with Mr Dunne's office.

May 23: Acting GM of Parliamentary Service sends me a brief email saying he has spoken with Mr Dunne's office, and that "spoke with Rob all ok". I respond thanking the acting GM of Parliamentary Service for that (attached).

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