A leading MP is to challenge the Government over claims that a Defence
Minister was bugged by the French when he was responsible for the award
of billions of pounds worth of contracts.
Tory MP Patrick Mercer says senior security sources have told him that
bugs were placed in the offices of Lord Drayson, the then-Defence
Procurement Minister, at the House of Lords and in the Ministry of
Defence, so the French could eavesdrop on conversations about valuable
The claim has the potential to cause a major diplomatic row between
Britain and France, which regularly compete for huge defence equipment
contracts all over the world.
The French bugging episode is said to have taken place two years ago
when major Labour Party donor Lord Drayson was involved in the 20billion
deal to build two giant new supercarriers for the Royal Navy and a
project worth up to 60billion for 3,000 British Army fighting vehicles.
Senior Government and Whitehall sources insisted last night they had "no
knowledge" of the bugging.
However, a former senior Whitehall official, who has since left
Government service, has revealed he was told by a senior member of the
intelligence community that the French eavesdropping on Lord Drayson
According to intelligence sources, Lord Drayson's office in the Lords
was subjected to a routine security sweep and a listening device was
found which had the "fingerprint" of the type used by the French.
The former senior Whitehall official confirmed that a second bugging
device was discovered during a similar sweep during the same period at
Lord Drayson's MoD office.
Lord Drayson who, with his family, is worth an estimated 80million and
controversially quit his Ministerial post last November to pursue his
dream of competing in the Le Mans 24-hour race was yesterday on holiday
He refused to comment on the allegations.
This was despite his UK office passing on details of the bugging claims
to him by mobile phone, text and email on behalf of this newspaper.
After The Mail on Sunday tried for several days to obtain a comment,
Lord Drayson's office said: "Lord Drayson decided when he left
Ministerial office never to discuss his role in Government, and he never
The French have long been suspected of carrying out spying missions in
Mr Mercer, the former Shadow Homeland Security Minister, said: "It's
disgraceful to think that a so-called ally of this country should spy
"I have been told by well placed sources that Lord Drayson was spied
upon by the French and that bugs were placed in his offices at the House
of Lords and in the MoD.
"I shall raise this matter in the House of Commons on Monday by putting
down an urgent question.
"I am appalled to think that we should have laid ourselves open to this
sort of insidious treachery.
"No wonder that relationships between Britain and France are always so
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said last night: "This report suggests
a shocking breach of national security.
"If true, it raises serious questions about the integrity of
communications from both Government and Parliament.
"We need some urgent answers.
"Why did the precautionary measures that should prevent such breaches
"What security measures are now being taken?
"And what representations have been made to the French about these very
Mr Davis added: "This is not the first security breach at Parliament.
"Just one month ago, an illegal immigrant was found working in the House
"When will this Government get a grip on security?"
Father-of-five Lord Drayson is no stranger to controversy.
He sold his biotech group Powder-Ject for 542million in 2003, a year
after it was controversially awarded a 32million Government smallpox
vaccine contract which caused its value to rise sharply.
Shortly before that, Lord Drayson had donated 50,000 to the Labour
Party, but a parliamentary inquiry cleared him of any improper activity.
And after being made a working peer in 2004, Lord Drayson gave Labour
another 500,000, resulting in claims that his peerage had been "bought".
A year later, the tycoon admitted that, until the previous winter, he
had kept his fortune in an offshore trust in the Isle of Man, a popular
destination to avoid UK taxes.
The trusts were wound up after he entered public life.
Lord and Lady Drayson live between homes in London, Nether Lypiatt Manor
near Stroud, Gloucestershire bought for almost 6million in 2006 from
Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and a palatial 7million mansion at
Tourettes sur Loup in the South of France.
Lord Drayson, who describes himself as a "car nut", drives an Aston
Martin Vanquish, his wife has an Aston Martin DB9 and his collection
includes a Lotus Elan.
The biotech multi-millionaire drives a six-litre ethanol-powered, 200mph
Aston Martin DBRS9 GT3-spec race car for Barwell Motorsport, a company
he helped found to realise his dream of competing in the Le Mans 24-hour
He plans to compete in the US Le Mans series this year, in the hope of
qualifying for the fully-fledged French classic, even though he has good
sight in just one eye.
If the French bugging suspicion is substantiated, it would not be the
first time their security services have been caught out in London.
Three years ago, The Mail on Sunday revealed how French secret agent
Pierre Martinet, who had retired from the French DGSE foreign
intelligence service, came to London in 1998 to spy on a suspected
member of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, the GIA, which had links to
The DGSE, unlike Britain's MI6, is a military organisation with a
reputation for ruthlessness in 1985 it blew up the Greenpeace protest
ship Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand, which had been set to embarrass
France over nuclear tests, killing a crew member.
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