Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Tenth and Eleventh Report


The Committee on Standards and Privileges has agreed to the following Report:—



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 evidence.

  • 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 reason.

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.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 27 July 1999