Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex 153

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Finers Stephens Innocent, Solicitors

  We write further to your letter to our client of today, copied to us.

  We write to express our and our client's dismay at your continued correspondence with our client despite our and our client's requested requests for you to deal with us direct. As you must well know, you do not need to "cc" your letters to us, to our client. As we are acting for him, they will of course be sent to him by us in accordance with normal practice. We understand from our client that you even telephoned him this morning. So that there is no confusion, we enclose a note of that call.

  You are well aware that we are dealing with this matter on instructions from our client. It is therefore astounding that you are continuing to contact him, especially when in the past led to what may most neutrally be described as "misunderstandings".

  Despite your assertion to the contrary, we find it hard to believe that your intention is not simultaneously to drive a wedge between us and our client and increase his feelings of vulnerability and unease at your approach. In your telephone conversation, it appears that you have once again threatened him with a report to the Committee if he does not met with you before a specific date Friday 30 June and that his failure to do so would "be made public". Such bullying tactics are quite inappropriate when conducting an enquiry for Parliament when we are well aware that at least one important matter remains outstanding.

  On another matter, in a voicemail message left for Mr Stephens today, you say that you do not understand our letter of 26 June. This is not credible.

  You also say that you are happy to "talk about" Sir Peter Soulsby "and who it was that suggested [you] contact him". You will be aware from our numerous requests (9, 16 and 21 June) that this is not the information that we seek. Rather, we have asked you to confirm whether you have personal knowledge of Sir Peter Soulsby or any other person involved in this enquiry. You have continually refused to address this question. In the circumstances, we have had to conduct investigations of our own, and have now been informed of the true position, that indeed you are aware of him, at least by having sat on the National Audit Commission with him. Perhaps you would be good enough to let us know why you refused to impart this information when it is originally requested.

  Finally, in your conversation with our client this morning, you said that if he were reported by you to the Committee for his failure to co-operate—which we have explained many times is not the case—then, in addition to the letter from Sir Peter Soulsby, you would use "as evidence":

    1.  transcripts and tapes from the Sunday Times article on 14 May; and

    2.  other evidence, which is in conflict with the letters received from our clients. Any such evidence is clearly properly discloseable to our client, if he is to comment upon it, and if your enquiry is to be fairly conducted. It has not been disclosed and we therefore wish that it be immediately disclosed to us.

27 June 2000

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