HMS Defender (Image: Getty)
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Officials are urgently checking whether top secret military documents are still missing after sensitive Government papers were found at a bus stop in Kent.
Defence minister Jeremy Quin confirmed it was not clear whether all the documents, marked 'secret UK eyes only', lost by a senior official last week, had been found.
An investigation by the Ministry of Defence police is underway after the civil servant believed to be responsible reported himself to the department.
The bundle of 50 documents, which were discovered by a member of the public and handed to the BBC, revealed how the Government thought Russia would react to HMS Defender in Ukrainian waters.
They also detailed plans for a possible UK military presence in Afghanistan after the US-led Nato operation ends.
Shadow defence secretary John Healey, who secured an urgent question in the Commons on the issue, told MPs: “Sensitive MoD documents found strewn behind a bus stop in Kent last Tuesday morning is certainly embarrassing for ministers, but it is deeply worrying for those concerned with our national security.”
Mr Quin, who faced cross-party calls for the person responsible for the leak to be forced to resign, said: “This is a matter for the investigation but I would emphasise to the House that the individual did self-report when he became aware that the documents had been mislaid."
He added: "The papers have now been recovered from the BBC and are being assessed as I speak to check that all documents missing have been recovered and what mitigation actions might be necessary.
“The investigation will look at the actions of individuals, including the printing of the papers through to the management of the reported incident and at the underlying processes for printing and carriage of papers in defence.”
Conservative MP James Sunderland said there appeared to have been a “deliberate act” in taking the documents outside the Ministry of Defence HQ.
He said: “Can the minister please confirm that when the culprit is proven to be negligent, that he or she is invited to walk the plank?”
Similar sentiments were echoed by Tory MP Bill Wiggin and Labour ’s Chris Bryrant, who said: “The Government needs to make sure that if someone has acted recklessly and put British service personnel in danger, that that person will be expected to resign.”
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Replying to Mr Sunderland, Mr Quin said: “I understand the concern over this issue and the concern will have been shared by others in this place, and former serving colleagues.
“But I think it is important that we have the investigation and we find out exactly what’s at fault here, and that also includes an examination of armed forces procedures to make sure they are fit for purpose.”