Examination of Witness (Questions 240
TUESDAY 18 MAY 1999
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
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
(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
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
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.
248. Paragraph 8 is important, Chairman.
(Mr Mandelson) I thought it was the right way
to proceed. I asked my solicitor to
249. Record the terms?
(Mr Mandelson) To record all this. I wanted it
in the form of a legal brief. It was not signed.
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.
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
(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.
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.
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
Mr Bottomley: I have
not referred to the letter.
Mr Foster: You are
referring to the contents of the letter.
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
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?
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 theIndeed,
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.)
258. Could I make one point. The only advantage
really if the paper is given to Peterand no-one is trying
to force himis 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.
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
(Mr Mandelson) A great pleasure.