Examination of Witness (Questions 60 -
TUESDAY 13 JULY 1999
60. About 3 o'clock? 4 o'clock? Something like
(Mr Kirkwood) I think probably about 4 o'clock.
61. Obviously she felt she had got a scoop having
spoken to you because of the reports
(Mr Kirkwood) I would contest that, because these
two paragraphs were buried at paragraphs 4 and 5of an eight-paragraph
report which was about something else, so there was no scoop involved.
She did not think she was being told anything at all. She thought
she was getting a discussion about the general programme and she
wrote a lot of things down about what our other activities and
plans were for a visit we were planning at that stage. There was
no sense that she was running to a telephone and started shouting,
"Hold the front page", it was a completely matter of
fact conversation which turned up in paragraphs deeply buried
in a report about some other difficulties the Government was having
at the time. I considered they were filler paragraphs rather than
anything else. Why was it none of the Committee noticed them until
half way through the day on Wednesday the 10th?
62. You received the amendments from Chris Pond
on the 9th. At what time of day did you see those amendments?
(Mr Kirkwood) The system is that the amendments would
be lodged with the Committee Clerk in the office, they were not
handed to me. The way my Committee works is that amendments are
never handed to meI do not think people would trust me
with them, I would probably lose themso there is a system
whereby members are encouraged to make sure the Select Committee
office at Millbank are provided with any amendments they want
to move. I understand that was what happened on this occasion
but I could not tell you at what stage in the day because I genuinely
do not know.
63. You have said that you did not consider
that any of this was substantial interference with the Select
Committee system, if Don Touhig got the draft before the Committee
met would you consider that to be a substantial interference?
Do you feel the timing is crucial to this, whether Don Touhig
got the Report before the Committee met on the day or after?
(Mr Kirkwood) I think what I am saying is that the
only circumstances in which a substantial interference could have
occurred, in the facts and circumstances as I know them, would
have been if the act of a Member of my Committee handing a draft
copy of the Select Committee Report to Don Touhig had direct consequence
in feeding through to the 40 amendments that Chris Pond subsequently
tabled. I do not believe that these two events were connected
in any way. I believe that Chris Pond would have moved those amendments,
whether Don Touhig had received a copy of the Report or not. I
think that my knowledge of Chris Pond's experience of the subjectthe
general demeanour and the way he conducts himself in the Committee,
he is a technical expert in this area -he was perfectly able to
work up the content of these amendments and move them in the effortless
way that he did. I think if someone had come along and taken a
draft of the Report, rushed to the Treasury, got experts in the
Department to work up a series of 40 amendments and handed them
to Chris Pond, I think he would have struggled, maybe not for
the first five but when he got to amendment 37 and I was pushing
him to get on I think he would have started saying: "Now,
what is this one about? What is the purpose of this amendment".
He never for a moment hesitated. So I do not think that the two
events were related. The serious interference would have occurred
if the handing over of the Reportbecause we know that happened
because the Chancellor tell us sohad anything to do with
the amendments that Chris tabled. Subject to this
64. You only feel it is a substantial interference
if amendments which have come from a Department are tabled?
(Mr Kirkwood) Yes.
65. You do not consider that the leak itself
was an interference or briefing the press?
(Mr Kirkwood) I think the two things are in different
categories but we take them one at a time. Certainly I believe
that the act of handing the Reportwhich we know happenedDon
Touhig must know who gave him it, and he must know when he was
given it and he must know why he was given it, these are questions
for him to answer because he refused to answer these questions
when I wrote to him and asked him to address these points. Certainly
the handing of the document is an offence under the Standing Orders.
It is a serious offence. It creates precedents and I think that
these things cannot be ignored. Although I say that I do not think
the two events were connectedthe Pond amendments and the
handing over of the Report to Don Touhigcertainly I think
the atmosphere in the Committee has deteriorated as a result of
the inevitable work that the Committee now has to do to go through
this leak inquiry. So it has had that impact on the work of the
Committee and it creates difficulties for you as a Committee trying
to judge whether this is a precedent that needs to be handled
in a particular way. The one thought I want to leave with you
clearly is that my opinion, for what it is worth, is that Chris
Pond was not suborned by Don Touhig or anybody else when he tabled
the amendments that he did. That is my opinion. I have no way
of being able to prove it either way but that is my own judgment
on the matter.
Chairman: Thank you, Archy, for coming
along and answering our questions today. Thank you very much.