Reply from the Rt Hon Robin Cook MP
to the Chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges
Thank you for your letter of 31 March.
I would wish to be as helpful as possible to the
Committee. But it is now almost three months since we received
the draft report. My office processes over 200 documents a day,
and it is not possible to establish precise answers to
all your questions so long after the event. I hope, however, that
what follows will meet the substance of your questions.
Questions 1-4 and 7
Although we are confident that the draft report was
received in my office in the second week of January, we have no
record of the precise day or time. The first person in my office
to handle the report was Andrew Hood. He gave it to John Grant
and John Williams. John Williams gave it to Kim Darroch and Chris
Sainty. I first became aware that we had received it in the course
of a meeting on other issues on 1 February, when Andrew Hood alerted
me that the report was likely to be critical of officials. John
Grant subsequently showed me a copy of the draft.
Questions 5,6 and 9
I was not aware that we had received the report until
1 February. I gave no instructions about the handling of the draft
report. At no stage did I disclose the draft report to anyone
else, or authorise further dissemination of it.
I have seen your letter of 10 March to Madam Speaker,
which has been placed in the Library of the House. I welcome the
guidance which the Committee has offered for the future, and have
instructed my office to act in accordance with that guidance at
all times. I trust that the Committee's report will make it clear
that this is new guidance, and that it was not in application
at the time of this episode.
9 April 1999