Examination of Witness (Questions 80 -
TUESDAY 18 MAY 1999
80. So if we take the purchase price of
about £465,000 and add on spending about £60,000 to
do it up, that comes to above the 500
(Mr Mandelson) I am not quite sure it was as much
as 60. I think it was more like 40 or 50. I cannot remember precisely.
81. That would then be covered by the £150,000
mortgage from the building society and the £373,000 from
(Mr Mandelson) Yes.
82. So by selling Wilmington Square you
would have had roughly an extra £80,000, having paid back
the mortgage on Hutton?
(Mr Mandelson) When you say "an extra £80,000"
83. If you sold Wilmington Square for 170,
say, and you have a £40,000 mortgage, that leaves about 130,
say agent's costs and others, 120
(Mr Mandelson) Hutton, did you say?
84. Selling Wilmington Square; you have
still got Hutton.
(Mr Mandelson) No, I am paying back the Hutton
mortgage at the same time as I sold Wilmington Square.
85. It would seem to those of us on this
Committee that you would have about £80,000 surplus once
you get to the stage where you have no mortgage on Hutton and
you have sold Wilmington Square and paid back that mortgage as
(Mr Mandelson) I accept what you say because presumably
from that I paid the £40,000 to Geoffrey and then spent £40-50,000
on Northumberland, so that would square. I accept what you say
because it seems logical and it seems to fit with my recollection.
I do not have a precise recollection. I do not have this in front
of me and I am not the most numerate person in the world.
86. May I then switch thoughts and return
with some reluctance to your mother. Was it likely that your mother
could have produced over £300,000 in cash without selling
(Mr Mandelson) Certainly, yes.
87. The answer is yes?
(Mr Mandelson) Yes. She could have done. Whether
she would have done is a matter
88. That is not my question.
(Mr Mandelson) Did she have the financial means
to do so? Yes.
89. Without touching property?
(Mr Mandelson) She would not have had to sell
her property, no. Do not forget also, when all this blew up her
first reaction to me and my brother was, when I first learnt that
all this was going to be disclosed, although I had never anticipated
the hoo-ha and the hysteria of the press and the incineration
of me by the press, but she was prepared then, and offered, to
replace Geoffrey's loan then and, quite honestly, if we had had
more warning that all this was going to happen and I had thought
about it in time and certainly had thought about it in advance
of the sensational disclosure of all the headlines about secrecy
and all the other stuff that went into it, she would have replaced
the loan, or she said that she was willing to replace the loan.
90. May I turn to Herbert Smith. I do not
want to go into too much detail but there is in one part, which
is actually in the section about "Payment of Deposit",
where I think I can use a direct quotation, which is this: "Had
he"that is you, Peter Mandelson"not reached
this conclusion, we are instructed that he would not have exchanged
contracts." They use the expression "we are instructed".
Is that likely to have come directly from you or is it likely
to have come from your lawyers, because Herbert Smith, of course,
spoke with you and with your lawyers?
(Mr Mandelson) I do not see why they should take
that from my solicitor, no. I do not see how my solicitor can
say that. I do not think so but I do not know. I am afraid I have
not read in full the report, I have only had it since lunch time
and it was not my priority to read it, I was reading the Commissioner's
report and preparing my observations about that. "Instructed"
seems as if they were taking instructions from me; they were not
taking instructions from me.
91. How I interpret that expression "...he
would not have exchanged contracts" is that it does not come
from you. In other parts of their note to the building society
they say "Mr Mandelson said..." I think that is possibly
the distinction and it may be a distinction of significance, "we
are instructed". Could we start from a different direction.
If Herbert Smith said to you "would you have exchanged contracts
if you had known that your family were not going to produce the
cash?" do you think you would have said "I would not
have exchanged contracts", or do you think we have to go
back to the more obvious interpretation of these words that you
were not asked that question but somebody else answered it saying
"we are instructed to say that he would not have exchanged
(Mr Mandelson) I do not remember being asked that
specific question although I was interviewed by Herbert Smith
over a period of three hours in a most aggressive way. I cannot
remember precisely every question that was put to me. I do not
remember that specific question being put to me. Nor can I imagine
anyone else that I would have authorised to say it on my behalf
because I would have remembered being asked that.
92. Can I turn to one last area, at least
for the time being, which is the question of openness with the
media. Each of us have had experience of dealing with the media
and being pursued on things which we do not think are right to
discuss. The Evening Standard had two articles, one in
the middle of what looks like an interview with you saying that
you can get a reaction out of Peter Mandelson by asking about
the new house in Northumberland Place and they say "Eventually
Mr Mandelson produced a perfectly reasonable explanation..."
as to how he had paid for it. Can you help us by saying
(Mr Mandelson) Sorry, who was the interview with?
93. The article is by Alex Renton. It is
a profile headed "You're in power, Peter, you can calm down".
(Mr Mandelson) I do not recall ever giving an
interview to Alex Renton, nor do I think it is likely. He is a
person who, I believe, is personally and politically unsympathetic
to me. The possibility of my agreeing to give him an interview
is very remote.
94. I did not say that you had given an
interview to him, I said the article appears to have his name
at the top of it. The interview may have been with somebody else.
Do you have the article, it is the one that is headed "30
June 1997 Profile".
(Mr Mandelson) Yes.
95. I draw your attention to the last paragraph,
the one that starts, "The latest surefire way..." In
the fifth line, the sentence that starts "Eventually Mr Mandelson
produced a perfectly reasonable explanation...."
(Mr Mandelson) You have to understand the circumstances
in which this took place. I was being pursued not simply by the
Evening Standard. I cannot remember the precise time of
this. I was being pursued throughout by Punch magazine,
I believe at the specific request of Mohammed Al Fayed. They were
going knocking on the doors of my neighbours asking them questions
about me, about my private life, who came to stay at my house,
how often was I there, what happened, did they see anything suspicious.
Each one of my neighbours was asked by Mr Al Fayed's reporter,
and I say Mr Al Fayed's reporter because I believe he controls
directly what Punch magazine does. I can hardly be blamed
for being evasive and sensitive and touchy. It says "The
latest surefire way of arousing Mr Mandelson...", dead right
it was because I was fed up to the back teeth with what those
people were doing. When the Punch magazine people had finished
incidentally, if I can just complete this, the Independent
on Sunday newspaper editor, Rosie Boycott, sent her own reporters
round to knock on my neighbours' doors to find out how they liked
receiving visits from Punch magazine journalists, so it
happened all over again. This went on and it is still happening
today. Even today when I got up this morning at 11.30, having
stayed up all night, there was a note. No, sorry. When I got back
this morning at 5.30 there was a note from my neighbour saying
"More pest control. Yesterday a Daily Mail journalist
rang at my door to ask me questions about what you were doing
with your house and asked me to give any details of your cleaner
so that they could find out from her what you are doing".
Yes, I am sensitive.
96. The question I was going to ask you
about was about those words, "a perfectly reasonable explanation",
not about sensitivity.
(Mr Mandelson) Where is that?
97. The fifth line: "Mr Mandelson produced
a perfectly reasonable explanation".
(Mr Mandelson) Yes.
98. What do you think a "a perfectly
reasonable explanation" might have been? Do you think it
(Mr Mandelson) I have no idea what I said. I cannot
remember what I said to him, if I did say anything at all to him
actually. He does not say that I said this to him. There was a
journalist working for the Evening Standard at the timeMark
Honigsbaum. Indeed, I think he started this, not Alex Renton.
These stories and enquiries by the Evening Standard did
not start with Alex Renton, they started with Mark Honigsbaum
and then heRenton pursued them. I do not know what
I said to him. I have no recollection at all of speaking to him.
99. Mark is the journalist who wrote the
book "MPs for Hire"?
(Mr Mandelson) No, I think that was someone else.
I have never met Mr Honigsbaum.