Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards from the Rt Hon Sir Norman Fowler MP
I would like to refer to you a case involving the
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and a donation from the Joseph
Rowntree Reform Trust. The issue is set out in the enclosed newspaper
It seems to me that there is an important principle at stake.
In this case money was given to Mr Prescott for a specific purpose-namely
to help Labour construct a regional policy. I would have thought
it would follow from that that such a contribution should be recorded
in the Register of Members' Interests. Indeed the Register of
Members' Interests for 1996/97 showed that a number of members
of the then Shadow Cabinet did declare such contributions. For
- Jack Straw recorded a "grant towards
research on constitutional policy from the Joseph Rowntree Reform
Trust Ltd from 1 May 1995 (£10,001-£15,000)"
- Mo Mowlam recorded a "grant of £8000
towards research on the democratic deficit in Northern Ireland
from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust"
- George Robertson recorded "assistance
with research staffing from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd,
the sum of £12,000 for 12 months extended to May 1997"
- Tony Blair recorded that the "office
of the Leader of the Opposition receives support, in addition
to public funds, from the Labour Party and its affiliates, from
the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd, and the Labour Leader's
It is accepted by everyone concerned that the Joseph
Rowntree Reform Trust also made a donation to aid the formulation
of Labour Party regional policy. This contribution was sent to
Mr Prescott but his Declaration of Interests for 1996/97 makes
no reference to the Rowntree Reform Trust. It says:
"The office of the Deputy Leader of the
Opposition receives support, in addition to public funds, from
the John Prescott Campaign/Research Trust from which he derives
no personal financial gain".
I should make it clear that I entirely accept Mr
Prescott's statement that he derived no personal financial gain
from this contribution. That is not the issue at stake. The
issue is whether money given to aid a specific policy investigation
should be declared in the way that, for example, Jack Straw has
I would seek your guidance on the following points:
First, I would suggest that it should be a rule that
when a contribution is made to a policy investigation the Member
concerned should declare that in the Register of Interests. This
is not a criticism of the Rowntree Reform Trust but unless such
a rule is applied then Parliament is deprived of the knowledge
of who is financing a policy investigation carried out by a political
party. It would obviously be the case that if a tobacco company
was financing an investigation into health policy then that would
be a matter of obvious public interest.
Second, it cannot be a sensible alternative to say
that the contribution was made public in some other way-for example
by a press release. If that was deemed sufficient then a whole
range of entries in the Register of Members' Interests could be
Third, I understand that it is claimed that the contribution
went into a "blind trust". However in this case the
trust cannot be deemed to be blind. The fact that the Rowntree
Reform Trust made the donation was well-known to Mr Prescott for
the good reason that he had applied to them for the contribution.
I believe it would be in everyone's interest if this
case should be investigated so that an authoritative ruling can
be given on this question.
9 March 1998
2 Not printed. Back