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
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