Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Ninth Report


Letter to the Chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges
from the Rt Hon Peter Mandelson MP

Thank you very much for giving me such an extensive opportunity to talk to the Committee and respond to questions. I felt it was very valuable for me to clear up some important points. I have had a chance to spend more time studying the Parliamentary Commissioner's Memorandum. I hope you do not mind if I suggest that it is really an inadequate basis on which to uphold complaints which would have a most severe impact on me.

On the question of registration of the loan, Ms Filkin's case rests (para 24) on my change of circumstances when appointed Trade and Industry Secretary; that while non-registration was acceptable or at least understandable before then, my Department's contact with Mr Robinson's affairs meant I should have registered the loan subsequently.

I accept that the existence of the loan should have been made known to my Permanent Secretary so as to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. That is why I resigned. But I cannot agree that the only way to inform him and others was by means of the House of Commons Register. I think Ms Filkin is using a sleight of argument to justify her upholding of the complaint. The inconsistency of her argument is then reinforced when in para 26 she reverts to arguing that I should have registered the loan in accordance with the Commons Code of conduct and the purpose of the Register (no further mention is made of the Ministerial Code and my role at the DTI). I suggest, with respect, her case lacks logic and consistency and that, on the basis advanced by her, the complaint should not be upheld.

The case Ms Filkin advances for upholding the other complaint concerning the loan is also illogical, in my view. She argues that because my application form was incomplete, I must have received favourable treatment from the Society (para 39). With respect, this is a non sequitur.

Any member of the public might have filled in their form incompletely and still have received a mortgage. My status as a Member of Parliament is irrelevant. Leaving aside her judgement of the explanation and mitigating circumstances I have provided (and which have been accepted fully by the Society), I believe she cannot conclude that as a Member of Parliament I was given the benefit of the doubt and treated more favourably by the Society.

If, nonetheless, she maintains this view, why am I culpable? Surely I am not responsible for the Society acting "outside normal commercial practice". How can a complaint be upheld against me following a decision taken by the Society? It is their practice which is being questioned not mine. Furthermore, I repeat my view that if the Society didn't possess the relevant information from the form how could they have decided to overlook it and treat me favourably?

In the very next paragraph (40), Ms Filkin switches the basis of her argument by citing the relevant part of the Code requiring Members "to be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take". I accept that if I had knowingly sought to mislead and deceive the Society I would clearly be in breach of this article of the Code. But Ms Filkin does not claim this. Instead, she refers to two material facts (presumably Mr Robinson's loan and the Hutton Avenue mortgage) but fails to explain why I didn't provide the information. The Society does accept my explanation and that I acted in good faith. Ms Filkin offers no supporting evidence for contradicting the Society's view. She might argue that I should have realised the alleged mistake and remedied it earlier. But is that really a convincing basis for upholding such a draconian complaint as put to her by Mr Henderson?

Both Mr Redwood's and Mr Henderson's complaints are extremely serious in their claims and their implications for me. In effect, I am being accused of fraudulent behaviour. I hope the Committee will take into consideration the consequences of upholding such a serious and far reaching complaint on such narrow, almost technical grounds.

If the Committee wants further information from me I will happily provide it.

19 May 1999


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