Secret Home Office papers released last night under the Freedom of Information Act throw new light on Michael Howard’s performance in his infamous grilling by Jeremy Paxman during which the BBC Newsnight presenter asked him the same question 12 times. The interrogation during the 1997 Tory party leadership contest centred on the allegation that when Mr Howard was home secretary he had overruled Derek Lewis, then director general of the Prison Service, and instructed him to suspend the governor of Parkhurst prison after a mass breakout of category A prisoners. Paxman repeatedly asked Mr Howard: “Did you threaten to overrule him?” The papers released by the Home Office last night at the request of Mr Howard appear to amount to only a partial vindication of the Tory leader’s famous denials to Paxman. They include transcripts of three meetings between Mr Howard and Mr Lewis on January 10 1995 – the day it was decided that the Parkhurst governor should be suspended. They also show that Mr Lewis had been privately warned by the top civil servant at the Home Office: “This is all getting white hot and I don’t want it to become nuclear.” They show supporting evidence from the… Read full this story
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