Memorandum submitted by the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Standards
Complaints against Marjorie Mowlam
and Dr Jack Cunningham
1. Mr Peter Ainsworth, Member for East Surrey,
wrote to me on 24 June 1999 (Annex A) enclosing a press
cutting referring to donations allegedly made by Mr Greg Dyke
to the offices of Dr Marjorie Mowlam, Member for Redcar, and Dr
Jack Cunningham, Member for Copeland, during their respective
periods as Shadow Heritage Spokesmen in the last Parliament. Dr
Mowlam held this position from 1993 to 1994, and Dr Cunningham
from 1995 to 1997. Mr Ainsworth asked me to investigate the apparent
omission of these payments from the Register of Members' Interests
at the relevant dates.
2. The Rules on the Registration and Declaration
of Financial Interests have always required the registration of
support towards the cost of research assistance. Depending on
the circumstances, this has normally been included either in Category
4 of the Register (Sponsorship) or Category 5 (Gifts, Benefits
and Hospitality from UK sources).
3. The relevant extracts from the Rules are as
"Sponsorship (Category 4)
... Subsection (b) relates to other forms of sponsorship,
which is interpreted to cover any regular or continuing support
from companies or organisations from which the Member receives
any financial or material benefit in support of his or her role
as a Member of Parliament. For example, it is necessary to register
the provision of free or subsidised accommodation and the provision
of the services of a research assistant free or at a subsidised
"Gifts, benefits and hospitality from
UK sources (Category 5)
This section is for the registration of any gift
or material advantage above a specified value, received by the
Member of Parliament or the Member's spouse from any company,
organisation or person within the United Kingdom, which in any
way relates to membership of the House ...."
4. To ensure full disclosure of their interests,
Members are also required to keep the overall definition of the
Register's purpose in mind which is "to provide information
of any pecuniary interest or other material benefit which a Member
receives which might reasonably be thought by others to influence
his or her actions, speeches or votes in Parliament, or actions
taken in his or her capacity as a Member of Parliament."
The complaint against Dr Mowlam
5. Dr Mowlam explained to me in her letters of
20 July and 2 November 1999 (Annexes B and F) that in 1994
she had received a one-off donation from Mr Dyke in his individual
capacity which was not intended to benefit her personally, but
to help towards the costs of her political responsibilities. She
had then made the following entry in the Register published as
at 31 January 1995, which she intended to cover Mr Dyke's contribution:
"Researcher paid for partly out of office expenses
and partly out of donations to the Marjorie Mowlam Research Fund."
She said she had consulted the Registrar "on
the precise form of words I should use to describe any individual
donations I received towards the Marjorie Mowlam Research Fund".
6. The Registrar has no recollection of discussing
the amount of individual donations to the Fund or the identity
of particular donors (Annex D). He wrote to her on 12 January
1995 to say he had made a Register entry in line with her previous
entry concerning the Fund in 1992 (Annex B).
7. Dr Mowlam first set up the Marjorie Mowlam
Research Fund in 1992, a year in which she had received a number
of donations to fund staff and research projects, and registered
the Fund at the time (Annex G). No further contributions
were made to the Fund until Mr Dyke's donation in 1994, as a consequence
of which she reinstated her Register entry with the general description
8. The Marjorie Mowlam Research Fund was the
subject of an earlier complaint in 1996 to my predecessor, Sir
Gordon Downey, that a contribution of £21,000 to the Fund
by the Mirror Group throughout 1995 had not been specifically
registered. Dr Mowlam said in her reply of 30 April 1996 to Sir
"For the years 1992/93, 1993/94 and 1994/95
I received money from Unison, BIFU and Short Money which covered
the cost of my research projects and staff.
In 1995/96 I increased my staff slightly in my
Redcar office and in London to be prepared in policy terms for
government. I wrote to a number of people and corporations asking
for donations for research as I had done four years previously.
I had a holding message from Tony O'Reilly, from Heinz Corporation,
who has not been well but is still considering the matter and
I am hoping to receive a contribution from the Joseph Rowntree
Reform Trust Ltd. I am waiting for this to be finalised and will
register it if and when it is confirmed.
As I was hoping for a number of one off donations
from a variety of sources, all of which would declare the donations
in their own annual reports, I recreated the Marjorie Mowlam Research
Fund as I had done previously.
The first time I set up the fund I discussed the
matter with the Registrar. The second time, I repeated the entry
on the assumption that it was on the same basis as before.
There has been some suggestion that by the way
I entered the MGN contribution was to hide its origin. Nothing
was further from my mind. I was repeating past practice. I knew
the contribution had been passed and minuted by the Mirror Board
and would appear in their annual report.
I have always done my utmost to follow the rules
of the House. The part of the Rules on the Registration and Declaration
of Financial Interests (October 1993) relating to sponsorship
(Page 5) reads:
'25. Subsection (b) relates to other forms of
sponsorship, which is interpreted to cover any regular or continuing
support from companies or organisations from which the Member
receives any financial or material benefit in support of his or
her role as a Member of Parliament.'
As the Marjorie Mowlam Research Fund was set up
because I was hoping to receive a number of one-off payments from
different sources, at different times and for different periods,
I therefore believe it conforms with the rules.
In retrospect it might have been better, with
just one donation in the Fund, to declare its source but I was
continually hopeful of receiving additional donations. I do not
think I have broken the rules of Members' Interests, but if you
or the Committee take the view that I have, I apologise."
9. In his report on the 1996 complaint, Sir Gordon
reached the following conclusions:
"The rules relating to research support are
not specific in requiring identification of the source. This contrasts
with other categories of more personal benefit (directorships,
remunerated employment etc.) where the details required for registration
are spelt out more fully. Thus, for remunerated employment, Members
are asked to provide not only the name of the employer company
and the nature of its business but also to indicate the nature
of the post which they hold in the company or the services for
which the company remunerates them. In the case of regular sponsorship
and gifts there is no such guidance.
Given that Ms Mowlam has registered an interest,
it can therefore be argued that she is not formally in breach
of the rules. However, a number of other considerations need to
be taken into account.
(i) the purpose of the Register is to
provide information about any benefit which might reasonably be
thought by others to influence a Member's actions. Although Ms
Mowlam received no personal payment, the help provided in her
work must be regarded as an indirect benefit.
(ii) that being so, it is desirable that
other people should know the source of the benefit so that they
can satisfy themselves that improper influence is not being sought.
(iii) if a number of modest contributions
were being made to a research fund, it may well be reasonable
that these should not be listed in full. But a single, substantial,
contribution from the Mirror is, I think, a matter of public interest.
My conclusion, therefore, is that although Ms
Mowlam has not breached the letter of the Rules, the spirit of
those Rules would have been better served by disclosure of the
Sir Gordon said he had "discussed this conclusion
with Ms Mowlam. She accepts it and offers her apologies to the
10. Dr Mowlam now acknowledges, in response to
Mr Ainsworth's complaint, that Mr Dyke's contribution of £5000
constituted another donation to the Fund which was received before
the earlier complaint. She recognises "that it would have
been better in retrospect to have acknowledged Greg Dyke's donation
to the Marjorie Mowlam Research Fund in the submission"
to Sir Gordon. She said that this was an oversight on her part,
and apologised for any confusion this may have caused. She has
confirmed to me that no further substantial contributions were
made to the Fund between 1994 and 1996 (Annex E).
11. The then Commissioner concluded in 1996 that
even if Dr Mowlam did not breach the letter of the Rules in 1995
because she had registered the Research Fund, their spirit would
have been better served by specific disclosure of the Mirror payment.
The Committee accepted the Commissioner's report.
12. I share the Committee's and the then Commissioner's
view that a single substantial contribution is a matter of public
interest and that the Rules are best upheld by disclosure in such
circumstances. I regard a payment of £5000 from a single
source as substantial and therefore requiring a specific entry
in the Register, and I conclude that the payment from Mr Dyke
should also have been registered.
13. I agree with Dr Mowlam that she ought to
have told the Commissioner of Mr Dyke's donation during the 1996
investigation. Dr Mowlam inaccurately informed the Commissioner
that there had been just the one donation to the Research Fund
whereas Mr Dyke's contribution preceded the Mirror's.
14. I uphold the complaint that the donation
from Mr Dyke of £5000 to the Marjorie Mowlam Research Fund
should have been disclosed in the Register of Members' Interests
not later than January 1995. In addition Dr Mowlam should have
provided accurate information to the Commissioner in 1996 and
acknowledged the omission at that point.
The complaint against Dr Cunningham
15. Dr Cunningham made the following entry in
the Registers dated 31 March 1996 and 31 January 1997:
"President of the Industry Forum (unremunerated).
The Forum exists to promote a dialogue between Labour and the
private sector. The Forum finances research on policy issues for
me and my Front Bench Team."
16. In letters to me on 20 July (not printed)
and 11 October 1999 (Annex H) Dr Cunningham explained that,
when he was Shadow Heritage Secretary, financial support for his
office was provided by the Industry Forum; the arrangement ceased
as at 1 May 1997. He added:
"I had no access to the bank accounts or
details of individual contributions to the Industry Forum. The
list of members is not published. All financial transactions were
handled by the Forum Trustees. Research funding to my Office from
the Forum was decided by them. It was paid and administered independently
17. In response to my enquiry, he acknowledged
that Mr Dyke had made a single contribution to research funding
for his office, but that he was not aware of the contribution
"until some considerable time afterwards". He
had now confirmed with the administrators of his office fund that
the payment had been made on 3 May 1996.
18. Members will be aware that such funding arrangements
(Blind Trusts) were common during the last Parliament. We have
no information which indicates that any such arrangements have
been set up since the election. Indeed the Fifth Report of the
Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended:
"Blind trusts should be prohibited as a mechanism
for funding political parties, party leaders or their offices,
Members of Parliament or parliamentary candidates."
19. Under the arrangements made by Dr Cunningham
for the funding of his office when he held the Shadow Heritage
portfolio, all financial transactions were handled by the Trustees
of the Industrial Forum. He tells me that he had no personal knowledge
at the time of the identity of individual contributors. In such
circumstances, he could only have registered the support his office
received from the Industry Forum in general terms and he could
not have been influenced by the particular donation.
20. I am satisfied that Dr Cunningham's entries
in the 1996 and 1997 Registers complied with the Rules of Registration
on those dates, and I do not uphold the complaint against him.
2 November 1999
1 Fifth Report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges,
Session 1995-96 (HC 636). Back