The Committee on Standards and Privileges has
agreed to the following Report:
UNAUTHORISED RECEIPT OF A DRAFT REPORT
OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY COMMITTEE
1. In our Tenth Report, on the unauthorised receipt
of a draft report of the Social Security Committee, to which we
agreed on Tuesday 20 July, we were at that time unable to identify
the member of the Committee who was responsible for giving the
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer
a photocopy of a draft report on child benefit.
2. Before our Report was published Ms Kali Mountford,
a member of the Social Security Committee, realised that the response
she had made to our enquiries had not been accurate. On Friday
23 July she wrote to our Chairman in the following terms:
Thank you for your letter of 15th July 1999. You
asked, "Did you give Mr Touhig a copy of the report".
I regret to say that I did allow him sight of my copy of the draft
of the child benefit report to Don Touhig MP and I offer my full
apologies to you for having done so.
You will recall that I said to the Social Security
Select Committee that I was unable to help in their inquiries.
This was because at that time I was unsure how to interpret the
criticism which followed from showing Don Touhig MP the report
in the light of clear wish of the Social Security Select Committee
chairman, and the whole of the Social Security Select Committee
to persuade the Treasury to provide a minister or official to
give evidence to the Third Special Report (child benefit). Had
my thinking been clearer at that time and my absences less frequent,
I might have had a fuller grasp and understanding of the implications
of all these procedures and not done things which on reflection
were rather silly.
The situation is as follows
- The committee was concerned that it did not
have evidence from the Treasury.
- Members decided, as guided by the chairman,
to persuade the Treasury to give evidence.
- To assist in this I asked Don Touhig MP to
persuade the Treasury to provide a minister or official to give
- In order to explain the significance of the
request for Treasury evidence I agreed to Don Touhig MP's request
for sight of the first draft report (which I had with me at the
time) as I wanted him to understand the importance of our request
for Treasury evidence.
- I believed that I was assisting the committee
in its work, I was not showing the report to the PPS for any other
I now realise that my action has caused problems,
and had I been in the house as much as usual, I would have realised
this earlier. My severe health problems and the operations that
I have had have made me miss large parts of the Parliamentary
session in recent months.
I deeply regret my actions, and would like to
apologise both for my original error in showing another member
the draft report and for the delay in being totally forthcoming
in this matter.
I do of course realise that I must now resign
from the Social Security Select Committee with immediate effect.
3. We welcome Ms Mountford's decision to come forward,
which has cleared the other members of the Social Security Committee
of suspicion for the leak of the draft report.
4. Ms Mountford has accepted that she was wrong to
provide Mr Touhig with the draft report, although she believed
she was assisting the Social Security Committee in its work by
doing so. She has offered a full apology both for her original
error and for the delay in acknowledging it.
5. Ms Mountford is not an experienced Member of the
House and has been absent from the House for much of the Session
owing to illness. She did not understand the rules relating to
select committees as well as she might have done. There are a
number of other mitigating circumstances of a private and personal
nature which it is not appropriate for us to detail. Nonetheless
she aggravated her original offence by denying responsibility.
It would have been much better for her and for everyone else involved
if she had made a frank admission at the outset.
6. We recommend that Ms Mountford should apologise
to the House by means of a personal statement and that she be
suspended from the service of the House for five sitting days.
7. We understand that Mr Don Touhig played a considerable
part in Ms Mountford's decision to come forward. We are grateful
to him for his help.