Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Letter to Andrew F Bennett MP, Chairman of the Committee from the Chairman of ENTRUST


  I write further to my letter to you of 19 March 2001 in reply to the letter dated 12 March 2001 from the Clerk of the Environment Sub-committee to Dr Richard Sills, Chief Executive of ENTRUST.

  It is a measure of the seriousness with which ENTRUST regards this matter that we have taken further legal advice. In the light of that advice, ENTRUST wishes to respond further to the Environment Committee.

  ENTRUST recognises that the letter dated 27 February 2001 from Dr Sills to Dr Aickin should not have been written in the terms that it was. It accepts that the letter constitutes a contempt of the rights and privileges of the House of Commons and its committees, although, at the time that the letter was written, it was not appreciated that this was the case, ENTRUST unreservedly apologises for that contempt.

  Without in any way seeking to detract from the seriousness of the contempt, for which ENTRUST corporately accepts responsibility, I should explain the background to the offending letter of 27 February 2001. In September 2000, ENTRUST first invited Dr Aickin to join its Improvement Panel. The matter was progressed and, in our evidence to your Committee, we reported this invitation. Subsequently, on 23 November 2000, via an e-mail of a draft letter to The Guardian newspaper, Dr Aickin informed ENTRUST, that he did not intend to take up the appointment for the time being. A further e-mail of 1 January 2001 indicated that he might have changed his mind, but he took no other steps.

  At a Board meeting of ENTRUST on 14 February 2001, for reasons unconnected with Dr Aickin's correspondence with the Environment Sub-Committee (namely, concern that the budget for the previous financial year of the ebco of which Dr Aickin was Chairman was overspent, and that Dr Aickin was not in fact acting as a member of the Improvement Panel), the Board resolved to invite Dr Aickin to withdraw from the Improvement Panel (in which he was not participating).

  Unfortunately, the resolution of the Board was not reflected in the letter dated 27 February 2001 from Dr Sills to Dr Aickin. Instead, reference was made to a number of matters including, entirely inappropriately, as ENTRUST now recognises, a reference to Dr Aickin's "correspondence with the Select Committee". That letter was sent in draft form to ENTRUST's solicitors for review before being sent to Dr Aickin, with a copy to your Clerk, Mr Huw Yardley

  As I explain above, ENTRUST accepts corporate responsibility for that letter and does not seek to hide behind any breakdown in internal communication. It proffers a full and unreserved apology to you and to the members of the Environment Committee for the contempt involved in sending that letter to Dr Aickin.

  I add my own personal apology to you and to the Committee. I understand that Dr Sills will be writing separately to you with his own apology.

  ENTRUST undertakes not to take, or to consider taking, any action against Dr Aickin in consequence of the evidence that he gave to the Environment Sub-Committee. The offending letter of 27 February 2001 to Dr Aickin is withdrawn. On a positive note, ENTRUST and Dr Aickin have had an amicable meeting to discuss how we can work together for the benefit of the Credit Scheme. As you have been informed, a joint statement in terms proposed by Dr Aickin has been agreed as follows:

    "We are pleased to state that Dr Aickin and the ENTRUST Chairman and Chief Executive are in discussions to explore how Dr Aickin's contribution can be utilised to enhance the Credit Scheme.

    We are all agreed that Dr Aickin's contribution is not best made through the Improvement Panel.

    We are also committed to exploring how Dr Aickin's expertise and knowledge can best contribute to ENTRUST's desire to improve its performance in regulating the innovative and successful scheme so that it can provide more effective support for Sustainable Waste Management, environmental projects and community schemes".

  I request that you and your Committee accept the full and frank apology that we have offered. Dr Sills and I will attend before your Committee at 10.30 am tomorrow to apologise in person for what has occurred.

The Earl of Cranbrook DSc DL

27 March 2001

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