Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 240 - 261)



  240.  Of the eight paragraphs is it fair to say that six of them refer to security or ways of repaying or some part of repayment of the loan or its interest?
  (Mr Mandelson)  I cannot tell you whether it is six out of whatever. All I know is at the top of that agreement was that this would be repaid by agreement between Peter and Geoffrey. There was never any question, and nor did Geoffrey ever suggest that there might be, that he should be able to call in that loan without agreement with me. That was stated, if I remember rightly, at the top of that agreement.

  241.  There are eight paragraphs in that agreement I put to you and I put to you that six out of those eight paragraphs make reference to the repayment. I agree the first paragraph does not make reference to repayment. I agree that the second paragraph does not make reference to repayment. The third paragraph says: "This memorandum shall be kept confidential and shall not be registered at HM Land Registry without the consent of both parties unless Geoffrey Robinson shall give to Peter Mandelson 90 days notice of his intention to register..." So it was capable of being registered 90 days after you had notice.
  (Mr Mandelson)  That is not the same as a charge on the property.

  242.  I am just trying to put to what is in the agreement.
  (Mr Mandelson)  With respect, I am also giving you, because you are putting the questions to me, what the agreement means.

  243.  In the fourth paragraph it says: "...Geoffrey Robinson shall be at liberty forthwith to register this memorandum... so as to secure the repayment of the loan" if you die. The fifth paragraph——
  (Mr Mandelson)  That is to get his money back from the sale of the property on my death.

  244.  So in a sense it is security.
  (Mr Mandelson)  In so far as any agreement offers comfort and a basis for proceeding, yes, but it remains an unsecured loan in the sense that is understood by and relevant to the building society.

  245.  In the fifth paragraph if Geoffrey Robinson dies you commit yourself to "shall take such action as shall be reasonably required by the Estate of Geoffrey Robinson to secure the interest of the estate of Geoffrey Robinson for the repayment of the loan ..." and it goes on to say this will be done within six months after the death of Geoffrey Robinson.
  (Mr Mandelson)  What that means is that if Geoffrey dies and his estate want to call in the loan I have six months to sell the property.

  246.  The sixth paragraph says that the loan and the interest shall be repaid to him on the sale of the property unless there is some substitute agreement. Is that correct?
  (Mr Mandelson)  You are reading to me what you are reading.

  247.  It is an agreement that you made. I put it to you that is what it says. I go on with the other two paragraphs: "Notwithstanding the terms hereof the loan .... shall be repaid as part by Peter Mandelson out of the net proceeds of sale of Wilmington Square after repayment of mortgages..." on Wilmington Square and on Hutton Avenue. So you have agreed with Geoffrey Robinson to repay the mortgage on Hutton Avenue and it is a matter of record that you did not tell the Britannia Building Society you did that. Is that correct?
  (Mr Mandelson)  It depends what status you are attaching to this agreement. It was never signed actually as an agreement but anyway that is a mere blip. I wanted this signed up. I wanted it written up. I wanted it put down in writing because I thought it was a proper way to proceed. Geoffrey never asked for it to be written up in this form and he never actually signed it. Nor did I.

Mr Bottomley:  Chairman, I will not go on to paragraph 8.

Mr Williams

  248.  Paragraph 8 is important, Chairman.
  (Mr Mandelson)  I thought it was the right way to proceed. I asked my solicitor to——

Mr Bottomley

  249.  Record the terms?
  (Mr Mandelson)  To record all this. I wanted it in the form of a legal brief. It was not signed.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  250.  It was not signed?
  (Mr Mandelson)  It was never signed.

Mr Bottomley:  The last paragraph: "Other than a first mortgage to the Britannia Building Society PBM shall not reduce the equity of the property by securing any other loans upon the property."

Mr Williams:  Which secures the position of the building society.

Mr Bottomley:  It actually secures the position of Geoffrey Robinson.

Mr Williams:  No, it secures the position of the building society. The building society has the first call on the property.

Mr Bottomley

  251.  The first call is with the Britannia Building Society, so nobody else can get the first mortgage. It actually secures Mr Geoffrey Robinson. Could I put one last question to you. Would you authorise Max Hastings to disclose to this Committee the Evening Standard notes of their conversations with you?
  (Mr Mandelson)  I do not know what notes there are of any conversations between me and the Evening Standard.

Mr Bottomley:  I repeat the question. Will you now allow Max Hastings to reveal to this Committee the information the Evening Standard have on their conversations, which he has said to us he does not want to do without your consent?


  252.  I do not understand this line of questioning.
  (Mr Mandelson)  Absolutely. This is complete news to me. I have no idea what you are talking about, I am afraid.

Chairman:  If this information is required we have the power and the authority to ask for it ourselves and say we want it.

Mr Bottomley

  253.  If Mr Mandelson does not want to give an answer to the question——
  (Mr Mandelson)  I do not know what the question means. I have no knowledge of what you are talking about.

Mr Foster

  254.  On a point of order, Mr Chairman, has Mr Mandelson seen that letter that we are talking about?
  (Mr Mandelson)  No. What letter?

Mr Foster:  The letter from Max Hastings. If he has not he does not know what we are talking about.

Mr Bottomley:  I have not referred to the letter.

Mr Foster:  You are referring to the contents of the letter.

Mr Bottomley

  255.  I think we should take it the answer is he would not authorise it.
  (Mr Mandelson)  You cannot take such thing from what I am saying. I do not know what you are talking about, Peter, so please do not put words into my mouth. I have been extremely careful and very full and very honest and forthcoming in this Committee. I think to try and put words my mouth that I will muzzle Max Hastings and stop him saying something to you about something I know not in circumstances which have not been described to me is, frankly, rather unfair.

Chairman:  Please do not worry. This Committee has the power to ask for information if we so desire it. We have been going for well over two and a half hours. I think that is a very long session and I think unless anybody has got something they——

Mr Foster:  Mr Chairman, on a point of order I think it is proper that before this matter is left, if a question is going to be asked on a document that Mr Mandelson has not seen, he should have the opportunity to see it and if the answer is that you do not believe that is right, then we ought to end that line of questioning.

Mr Campbell-Savours:  Can Mr Mandelson be given a copy of what has been referred to in the evidence?

Mr Bottomley

  256.  What has been referred to is the paragraph I did not read out before of the article of 22 December 1998, which says: "Peter Mandelson concealed the truth about how he paid for his Notting Hill house when directly asked about it ...."
  (Mr Mandelson)  Where is the evidence for that?

Mr Campbell-Savours

  257.  To be fair to the witness, I think he should have access to what we have during this session as well.
  (Mr Mandelson)  Where is the evidence for this?

Mr Campbell-Savours:  If he is putting an allegation——

Chairman:  He has seen this particular one. He has seen this. So you are perfectly aware of this 22 December note from the Evening Standard?

Mr Foster:  Mr Chairman, what was put to the witness was, would he object to Mr Hastings providing further information, which was a reference to the—Indeed, he went further than that. Peter referred to the fact that what was said in the letter was that he would not provide further information unless Mr Mandelson agreed. That was what was put to him, so unless he sees the letter how can he answer that?

Mr Campbell-Savours:  He could just see it.

Mr Lewis:  Chairman, it is irrelevant in a sense. We can send for papers at our will.

Chairman:  The letter will be conveyed to Peter. (Same handed.)

Mr Williams

  258.  Could I make one point. The only advantage really if the paper is given to Peter—and no-one is trying to force him—is that that removes from Hastings any pretence that he is protecting the integrity of the press in protecting their sources, which is their usual fall-back position, and then having this Committee in a confrontation with the press at us having used the power.
  (Mr Mandelson)  The first thing I notice, Chairman, in this is that Mr Alex Renton, who "spoke to Mr Mandelson on the subject" and who wrote this extensive article, has no contemporaneous notes. A good journalist he is. He can supply a memorandum. Presumably he can supply a memorandum from his memory.

Mr Lewis:  Exactly.

Mr Bottomley

  259.  The question remains open and has not been answered by the witness.
  (Mr Mandelson)  Sorry, what is the question?

  260.  Would you give your agreement to Max Hastings giving this Committee anything which substantially he might be forced to do anyway, but would you agree to him?
  (Mr Mandelson)  I cannot stop Max Hastings agreeing to a request that Alex Renton supply a memorandum, of course. I cannot stop him doing that but what value you attach to Alex Renton's memorandum would, of course, be a matter for you.

Shona McIsaac:  Chairman, I think Peter's line of questioning actually relates to a paragraph in a letter from Max Hastings about conversations between Mr Mandelson and Max Hastings rather than the Alex Renton stuff, and that is what Max Hastings is using, the old "protecting his sources" bit. It is actually the third paragraph.

Chairman:  The final sentence of this letter does read: "I am happy to give my personal assurance that nothing said in my telephone conversations with Mr Mandelson would materially alter or add to the version of events published in the Evening Standard."

Mr Campbell-Savours:  On that note, Mr Chairman, surely the matter is closed?


  261.  Yes, I think so. Unless there are any further questions I am bringing this session to an end. Thank you, Peter, for a very lengthy session, rather longer than perhaps either you or we would have wished, but many thanks for coming along.
  (Mr Mandelson)  A great pleasure.

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