Number 10 hides behind mystery technicality on Coulson vetting

Responding to concerns over Andy Coulson’s security clearance, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman has relied on a technicality which cannot be found in any of the Government’s published guidance. In an evasive reply to a set of fourteen questions sent by The Guardian last week, the spokesman claimed repeatedly:

“vetting is about access to paperwork, not meetings”.

But Scrapbook can’t find this distinction made in any official documentation on National Security Vetting. The question of security clearance is consistently viewed through the prism of access to “information” in general.

The Government’s new Security Policy Framework, published by the Cabinet Office, notes that “Vetting is required for those who … have constant and frequent access to SECRET and /or TOP SECRET information or other assets …”, and a Q&A on Developed Vetting issued by the Government Communications Centre reinforces this point:

“Its aim is to ensure that the character and personal circumstances of an individual are such that he or she can be trusted with sensitive government information or assets.”

Can top secret “information” not be disseminated verbally at a meeting?


  1. Louis Goddard says:

    Just noticed this — even Gus O’Donnell, in his letter to Ivan Lewis, refers to “information” as well as “papers”:

    “On vetting, you appear to have a misunderstanding about the purpose of security vetting
    which is about access to information not suitability for a job.”

  2. Interestedparty says:

    Having been in a long term relationship with someone who has gone through this level of vetting, I can tell you it is data in general, from a phone call, an over heard conversation, printed matter or an email. It is about ensuring that anyone in the vicinity of this information is 100% trustworthy and that any information that could weaken the position of the UK ( such as terrorism matters, in this case) .

    Rightly,. just because you pass the vetting does not make you suitable for the job.
    However, you as an applicant has to look and be interviewed as suitable before the government would consider undertaking the vetting.

  3. [...] Scrapbook has uncovered a fairly important piece of information that sheds light on the official Downing Street line that “vetting is about access to [...]

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