Further letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards from the Rt Hon Peter Mandelson MP|
Thank you for your letter of 25 February. I am happy
to give you further information to enable you to report to the
Committee. Taking your questions in order:
Flights accepted from Ms Wachner
i) 3 September 1996. I joined Ms Wachner
for a holiday at her home on Long Island and she detoured in her
plane to pick me up at Cape Cod as there was no other easy means
of travelling between these locations.
22 December 1996. I was concluding a visit to Washington
DC where she was also conducting business and she invited me to
join her for a weekend break at her home at Aspen. I travelled
with her on her return flight to New Jersey (the most convenient
airport for her home in New York) and I travelled on at my own
expense to London on a scheduled flight.
22 August 1998. I spent my summer holiday with Ms
Wachner at her home on Long Island and during this period we travelled
to spend the weekend again at Aspen, returning to New York (New
Jersey) on 24 August. Subsequently, she was committed to spending
some days on holiday in Venice and she invited me to accompany
her (26 August). I stayed in Venice at my own expense and I then
travelled on with her to London as she was conducting business
in Europe (31 August).
ii) The plane is owned by Warnaco but Ms
Wachner pays for any guest accompanying her. I have asked the
Company Secretary to write to you separately to confirm this.
iv) Warnaco has a small manufacturing plant in
Northern Ireland and a distribution facility in Nottingham. I
know of no reason why her business interests should fall within
the responsibilities of the DTI and no conversation between us
touched on any such overlap of interests. I have asked the Company
Secretary to write to you about any request for government financial
aid to the company (I do not know of any) and, needless to say,
had any such requests arisen while I was at the DTI I would have
naturally informed my officials of my connection with Ms Wachner.
v) I can think of no other matter bearing
on this complaint. Ms Wachner and I remain good friends having
been introduced at a social function by mutual acquaintances in
1994. We see each other half a dozen or more times a year.
The loan from Mr Robinson
This was a concessionary loan (i.e., it was not made
on normal commercial terms) provided by Mr Robinson who is a friend
of seventeen years standing. He has always been personally supportive
towards me and he wanted to see me settled and give me peace of
mind after a drawn out process of searching for a new home in
west London. He did not give me the loan because I was a MP or
to help me in anyway to do my job as a MP and, therefore, I did
not believe it was registrable because it was not a material or
financial benefit received by me from an outside interest in my
capacity as a MP. As you may know, other loans and gifts made
previously between Members had not been registered. I believed
a convention had been established, notwithstanding Mr Thomason's
case which was more complicated and had other dimensions, that
transactions between Members were outside the terms of the rules
of the House.
Mr Robinson's loan was not secured on the property
and never put at risk the mortgage provided by the building society.
The terms were agreed in a telephone conversation made by Mr Robinson
to my conveyancing solicitor on 15 October 1996 and the loan was
made on 21 October in time for completion on 23 October. The loan
was to be repaid at a time to be agreed between Mr Robinson and
myself (he could not simply call in the loan without my agreement)
together with simple interest accruing and calculated by reference
to the base rate of Midland Bank plc (or any successor of that
bank). The loan was not to be registered at the Land Registry
without the consent of both of us unless Mr Robinson gave 90 days
notice of his intention to do so. This action did not mean that
Mr Robinson was at liberty, then, to call in the loan but was
to protect his interest if I ever got into financial difficulty.
It was agreed between us that, in the event of my selling the
house, the loan and accrued interest would be repaid by me unless
a further substitute agreement was made between us. My solicitor
made a memorandum of his conversation for Mr Robinson which he
copied to him confirming the above terms. I have asked my solicitor
to write to you separately to confirm this. As I have stated previously,
because the unsecured loan from Mr Robinson was agreed after exchange
of contracts in order to enable me to complete the purchase and
was on a confidential basis between us the Britannia were not,
at the time, informed of the loan. As you will know, the Britannia
have confirmed that they are satisfied that there was no financial
risk to the Society.
The loan from the Britannia Building Society
I received the mortgage from the building society
on October 23 1996. I have provided to youfor your personal
information only as this is a private financial documenta
copy of my original mortgage application.
This was not a concessionary loan. Mr Robinson's unsecured loan
was agreed subsequently, as I have explained, and was not entered
on the form. The planned contemporaneous sale of my flat and purchase
of my house did not take place as intended, for simple market
reasons, as I have explained to the society. I sold my flat three
months later on February 28 1997. At the time, I also had an outstanding
mortgage on my constituency home in Hartlepool. Having maintained
these two homes (and mortgages) since entering Parliament I did
not think that this information affected my application to the
Britannia and I was not questioned about it by the Britannia branch
manager when I filled in the form with him. I intended, in any
case, to discharge the Hartlepool mortgage when I sold my London
flat and did so on February 28 1997, leaving me with the single
mortgage in London. All my repayments were properly made and no
suggestion has been made to me since by the society that I had
insufficient funds available to cover the mortgage payments. In
fact, my mother helped me financially during this limited period.
I am attaching a copy of the statement made by the Britannia on
January 8 1999 indicating their satisfaction with the information
I provided to them and stating that the building society's interests
were never put at risk by me.
I hope that, with this full information, you will
be able to make a satisfactory report to the Committee. I do not
believe that I have received other gifts which should have been
registered although I will keep under review any further gifts
that should be registered. Perhaps you could let me know if you
need more information arising from this letter.
24 March 1999
14 See Annex I. Back