UK Politics

No 10 defends probe into Andrew Mitchell 'plebgate' row

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Media captionMPs accused Sir Jeremy of failing to get to the truth

Downing Street has defended its investigation into the Andrew Mitchell affair, saying it believes the review was "exactly the right one".

Mr Mitchell resigned in October after allegedly calling a Downing Street policeman a "pleb", which he denies.

No 10 said the inquiry's scope was sufficient, after Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood admitted he did not look at whether the word "pleb" was used.

Sir Jeremy was appearing before the Public Administration Committee.

He told the panel of MPs his remit was not to investigate the police but to assess the reliability of emails purportedly from a member of the public alleging to have witnessed the incident.

The email was sent to Deputy Chief Whip John Randall, who passed it on to No 10.

Sir Jeremy said he told David Cameron that the CCTV footage showed "inaccuracies and inconsistencies" in the email accounts of the incident, which meant they should not be relied upon in deciding whether Mr Mitchell should be sacked.

'Wrong person'

He said the prime minister did not believe at any point that Mr Mitchell was lying about the plebgate affair and Mr Mitchell stayed in his job - resigning three weeks.

The Cabinet Secretary said he accepted that there might be a "gigantic conspiracy" surrounding the resignation of Mr Mitchell, but that was not something he was asked to investigate.

He was repeatedly asked by MPs why he had not gone to the police with his concerns and he said: "It wouldn't have been appropriate for me to start investigating the police logs - that's a matter for the IPCC."

The Conservative chair of the committee, Bernard Jenkin, put it to Sir Jeremy that he was the "wrong person" to conduct the investigation.

"Is the Cabinet Secretary the correct person to conduct such an investigation in the midst of intense media furore, while there are contested accounts on which the career of a senior minister turns?

"You are not equipped to carry out the right investigation. You didn't get to the truth about that email.

"You lost a minister because of false allegations about him that were not properly investigated," Mr Jenkin said.

MPs suggested that the issue should instead have been handed to the Prime Minister's independent adviser on ministerial interests Sir Alex Allan.

But Sir Jeremy replied: "I don't think Alex Allan would have come to any other conclusions or done it better."

Thirty officers are working on the investigation - known as Operation Alice - which is looking into claims that someone on the force gave false evidence over the incident.

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