Friday, March 17, 2006

Charles Clarke writes to my dad again

''15th March 2006

Dear [Rachel's dad]

Thank you for your letter of 10th March.

I too regret the events at the end of the meeting in Norwich Cathedral last Friday. That is why, as you will now know, I wrote to you on Friday afternoon expressing my regret and offering you a constituent surgery appointment to discuss these matters, to which I said you would be welcome to bring your daughter if you so wished. Our letters obviously crossed in the post.

In relation to Friday, I welcome this opportunity to set the record straight. Of course I do agree that it was entirely appropriate for you to ask a direct question to me as both your Member of Parliament and Home Secretary. I do spend a lot of my time taking questions on all aspects of Government business, but in particular those matters which are my responsibility as Home Secretary and it is right that this should be the case. I am sorry you found the format of Friday's event frustrating - this was not something for which I had responsibility, although I was happy with the arrangements.

From my point of view I did attempt to respond to your question about a public enquiry into the events of 7 July but it appeared to me that you were not ready to allow me to answer the question or to say anything at all in response to your point. That was why I described your response as insulting. In those circumstances I thought it better not to continue our exchange in the cathedral but to write to you immediately afterwards offering a meeting which I did. That said, my response obviously caused offence which I regret.

You mention in your letter that you have written to me before on the issue of a public enquiry into the events of 7 July. My Norwich office has checked its files and can find no record of your correspondence. Had I recieved a letter I would have replied. Perhaps you could send me a copy of the previous correspondence if we have made an error.

I would like here, though, to respond on the substance of your point. I should perhaps emphasise that before I made my announcement at the end of last year, I gave careful consideration to the views of those who had asked the Government to establish a full public enquiry into the atrocities of 7 July. I came to the conclusion that such an enquiry would add little to our understanding of the causes of those atrocities, in particular when there are parliamentary and other enquiries underway into these and related events. Moreover, I took the view that establishing a public enquiry would divert the attention of our police and security services during a period of time when they are still actively engaged in the continuing murder investigation of 7 July and the detection and prevention of further atrocities.

However, I do accept that it is important to set out clearly an authoritative account of what happened before and around 7 July. Accordingly, the Home Office is developing such an account which we intend should be published in due course. In making final decisions on the content of the account to be published we will of course have due regard to the need not to compromise intelligence sources or put at risk possible prosecutions.

I know that many people do not agree with this conclusion, and , as I say, I am happy to discuss it with you at a constituency surgery if you wish. Howevwer I do assure you that I did consider this matter very carefully indeed.

Finally, as I said to you in my letter last Friday, I do appreciate the appalling circumstances which you and your family have had to deal with, and I express complete sympathy with you and your family in those circumstances.

You will know that your letter to me has been placed on your daughter's website. I would be perfectly happy for her to place this response there too.

Yours sincerely

Charles Clarke MP''

writetothem service, which my father used in December 2005, has a 50% reply rate for Mr Clarke, see here. Had he known this, perhaps Dad might have written and posted a letter.

Here is the communication from Dad on December 17th 2005.

My father has told me that he very much wanted an answer from Mr Clarke, so to say ''it appeared to me that you were not ready to allow me to answer the question or to say anything at all'' seems very strange indeed to me. Why ask a question if you do not want an answer ? My father was upset because his question was not answered and he was brushed aside. There was nobody else involved, just my father and Mr Clarke, so it is not as if my father was making rhetorical questions to an audience. Perhaps Mr Clarke means that because my father asked a question in a manner that was not to his liking, that he found himself unable to say anything at all in response? But it is my impression that Mr Clarke did not answer the question by choice and met the question with the accusation that my father was being insulting, a rejoinder that my father clearly found insulting. (I should myself be insulted if a reasonable question was deemed an insult.)

However, this letter seems to be to be very close to an apology, and Mr Clarke now regrets causing offence, and I am much heartened by that. I am personally very pleased and grateful that Mr Clarke has taken the time to reply, thank you Mr Clarke, it means a lot and restores some of my faith in democracy. Dad and I are now looking forward to meeting Mr Clarke and asking him about what the public can expect in the way of answers to July 7th atrocities, what investigations are being undertaken, and by whom, and with whom the fruits of such investigations shall be shared.

It remains my sincere belief that as we, the public were attacked and as we, the public have questions not only about what happened on July 7th but why it happened, our questions should be answered transparently, honestly and most of all, publicly.

For only by understanding how July 7th happened, and why it happened, can we hope to prevent such tragedy happening again.

And moreover, what happened afterwards also needs to be addressed; for there are
learnings to be had and improvements to be made in the way the aftermath was handled.

Let me stress, I ask for a public enquiry for positive reasons, not to embarrass the Government or to assign blame, but to try to get something postive out of the dreadful events of July 2005, so that lives may be spared and suffering eased in the future.

I am glad that Mr Clarke has written to my father twice, and I am looking forward to meeting him. And I am very glad of and grateful for the huge wave of support I have had from so many people reading my diary, I am still answering your many emails and I feel very lucky to be surrounded by so much good cheer, kind words and sensible advice.

I shall let you know how the meeting goes...

Update Sunday 19th March
Clarke apologises after attack on father of 7/7 victim ( Sunday Telegraph)
Clarke in London bomb row with cleric ( Sunday Times)
Clarke belaboured by a turbulent priest ( Observer)

Hmmm. I wasn't very keen for these stories to run, as the matter has now been sorted out, but the papers have picked up on this ten days after the story was doing the rounds of the blogosphere, and there you go. I've played it down as much as possible with the papers. Still, this feels like a good example of the internet and blogging helping to get a good result; for me personally, and for Dad, and of course it helps to raise the issue of the public enquiry, and this feels like democracy in action, I think - so the links go up as a thank you to everyone who supported me and Dad, and who wrote to me and Mr Clarke.


Blogger Holly Finch said...

good to see the inkling of a grovel....look forward to hearing about your meeting which i am sure will be 'lively!

March 17, 2006 5:59 pm  
Blogger ozzyru27 said...

Dear Rachel

I have just published a blog on my site that I think you may be interested in. After reading your blog last week about Charles Clarke I was outraged by his actions and words, and continue to be outraged by his refusal for an inquiry. I think I wrote a comment regarding this.
However, with my indirect involvement of the July 7th, I feel more obliged to fight for an inquiry and so I wrote to my local MP, and received a response this morning.
It started with the usual speil, but I was quite surprised at the ending which agreed there should be an inquiry and stated he was putting pressure himself on the government for one. I will continue to contact him, and see if this can go furthur, but is contacting local MPs (although I understand yours is Charles Clarke, so not so hopeful there!) our way forward, instead of battling with the government as a whole?
I don't know but I felt quite hopeful from his letter. Ive had other ideas of pushing forward, but Im not sure if they have already been done or how viable they are.
I have posted this letter on my blog.
Best wishes
Ruth x

March 17, 2006 6:07 pm  

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