Letter to the Rt Hon Peter Mandelson MP
from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
Thank you for your letter of 23 February and for
your acceptance of my reasoning in suggesting you register the
loan from Mr Robinson and for doing so. I appreciate your willingness
to answer further questions.
As I shall have to report my conclusions on this
matter to the Committee on Standards and Privileges, I would like
to be sure that I correctly understand all the surrounding circumstances.
It would therefore be most helpful if you could give me a more
detailed answer to the following questions.
1. The flights accepted from Ms Linda Wachner
You explain that these flights were benefits received
from a personal friend which had no bearing on your parliamentary
role and duties. To allow me to satisfy the Committee on this
point, I would be grateful if you would provide me with information
(i) the dates and circumstances of the flights
which Ms Wachner provided; for example, I understand that on the
most recent occasion Ms Wachner had in any case to fly to Venice
and offered you a seat on her plane so that you could continue
your holiday there;
(ii) whether the plane (which was described in
the Sunday Times as a corporate jet) was owned by her personally,
by her company or by some other company;
(iii) if owned by her company or some other company,
the name of that company;
(iv) I believe you mentioned to Roger Willoughby
that Ms Wachner's company had two outlets in the United Kingdom;
if you could confirm this, and at the same time deal with Mr Henderson's
question whether her business interests could possibly have come
within the responsibilities of the DTI.
(v) any other matter which you wish to bring
to my attention which might bear on this complaint.
2. The loan from Mr Robinson
Leaving aside the question of transactions between
Members, about which I recognise that there is genuine doubt,
I need to address the question raised by Mr Redwood as to whether
the loan was provided on terms more favourable than would be available
commercially. From the account which you gave me in your original
letter of 22 December, it seems to me that there are certain aspects
of the loan which might reasonably be regarded as 'concessionary'.
For example, it does not appear from your description
that any interest on the loan had been paid at the date
of your letter, nor is it clear what rates of interest were applicable;
the terms of the loan did not specify dates of repayment; and
no security for the loan was demanded. Would you also give me
the date the agreement was made and the date the loan was provided
to you. I assume there was a written agreement for this loan and
I would be grateful for a sight of a copy to support your letter.
If you have any additional comments on this loan, I would be glad
to have them, as I am anxious to avoid making assumptions which
you would regard as unfair.
3. The loan from the Britannia Building Society
Mr Redwood raised the point as to whether the loan
from the Britannia Building Society itself amounted to a concession
so I feel obliged to raise this with you. I have seen the Britannia
press release which you mention. I see they expressed themselves
as satisfied with the information you had submitted to them but,
as I am not privy to this information, I have no means of reaching
a judgement on Mr Redwood's question. I would be grateful if you
would provide me with the details of your arrangement with the
Britannia, i.e. commencement date and period of loan, total sum
borrowed, interest rate and terms of repayment and whether the
acceptance of the loan placed you under any obligations for example
about other loans on the property. Would you also give me the
details of any mortgage which was outstanding on your previous
flat at the date the Britannia Building Society made the loan
4. Perhaps you would
also consider Mr Redwood's point concerning other gifts you may
have received and let me know whether you have received other
gifts which you feel should be registered.
I am sorry to have to put you to this additional
trouble, and I would be very happy to discuss any of these matters
with you either on the telephone or in person.
25 February 1999