Straw Returns from the Riviera to Face Critics

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID HUGHES

JACK STRAW flew back to Britain last night to defend himself against fierce attacks following the farcical publication of the Stephen Lawrence report.

The storm over his decision to spend a long weekend on the French Riviera showed no sign of abating. But the Home Secretary insisted he had done nothing wrong.

He left for the South of France hours after the revelation that police informants had been inadvertently identified in Sir William Macpherson's report.

With the Tories are demanding an emergency statement in the Commons today, Shadow Home Secretary Sir Norman Fowler said Mr Straw should consider quitting.

But Mr Straw said: 'I don't think that going away for two days for a private engagement is a high crime and misdemeanour.' He and his wife had spent the weekend fulfilling a longstanding engagement to see friends, he said, and he had no intention of stepping down as a result of the furore.

He added: 'Balancing the demands of my job with the needs of my family is a difficult thing to do. I think all politicians find that. Every so often I think we are entitled to a little bit of a private life and that is what happened this weekend.' He again insisted that the Home Office was not to blame for the publication of informants in the Lawrence case.

But Sir Norman told the BBC:

'It is one error after another. It has been a woeful story. I think Jack Straw should be considering his position.' He insisted the names of informants should have been spotted and removed by the Home Office.

Mr Straw's department had had the report for nine days before publication and it was 'a pathetic excuse that they had no responsibility for it'.

The row completes a disastrous week for a man seen as one of the most effective Cabinet Ministers. Mr Straw's attempt to halt publication of leaked details of the Lawrence report a week ago triggered uproar and he was forced to beat an ignominious retreat.

But that has been eclipsed by his decision to take a holiday at the height of the latest row. …