Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fourth Report

Annex H

Letter to The Lord Coe OBE from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards


Thank you for your letter of 13 February and the attachments concerning the William Hague Charitable Trust. I am also grateful to you and Tina Stowell for coming to see me on Monday.

I am now writing to let you know that I have decided that there are matters relating to Mr Hague's Register entry concerning the Trust which I need to investigate further.

You have helpfully provided details of the payments made to the Trust, together with confirmation that seven cheques, made out to the William Hague Charitable Trust, were not cashed. You have also listed three occasions on which Mr Hague's fees were donated directly to the charity in question.

Your letter did not, however, deal with all the questions in my letter to Mr Hague of 9 February 2001, in particular those concerning the circumstances surrounding the establishment of the Trust and the subsequent decision not to proceed with it.

For convenience, perhaps I should restate the key questions as follows:

    —   when was the original decision taken to establish the Trust and who was involved in the decision?

    —   what formal steps, if any, were taken to establish the Trust?

    —   when did it first become clear that the Trust "would prove too complicated to manage for the small sums involved", as Mr Hague put it in his letter to the Registrar of 7 February; and who was involved in discussions about the Trust at that stage?

    —   when was the decision finally taken not to proceed with the Trust and who was involved in that decision?

    —   how and to what extent, was Mr Hague personally involved , or kept informed, at each of the stages described in the above questions?

    —   what was the reason for the switch in policy between May and November 2000, namely from asking for Mr Hague's fees to be paid to the Trust to asking for them to be donated directly to individual charities; when was that decision taken and by whom?

    —  who, and on whose instruction, informed the donors from November 2000 onwards to make cheques directly payable to charities?

    —   why were no steps taken to correct Mr Hague's Register entry, at that point (ie when the decision was taken to ask for fees to be paid directly to charities), or when Mr Hague's entry was sent to him in December 1999 for checking for the January 2000 printed edition of the Register, or on the seven other occasions when he wished to update his Register entry and was provided with the new printout for checking.

I would be grateful if in addition to providing specific answers to these questions you would also let me have copies of all correspondence, file notes etc which relate to the establishment of the Trust and the subsequent stages in the process leading to the decision to discontinue it.

You gave me some further background information at our meeting and if Mr Hague wishes that information to be included in his response, perhaps it could be added.

I am sorry to tell you that I have also received a complaint on this issue from Mr Fraser Kemp. I enclose a copy of his letter for Mr Hague and would be grateful if you would include Mr Hague's response to this letter in the reply.

I shall be writing to Ms Lewis and Mr Kemp to inform them that I am investigating this matter.

If Mr Hague, or you on behalf of Mr Hague, would like to discuss this matter further, please contact me.

Please may I have a response by Wednesday, 21st February 2001 so that I may deal with the matter as speedily as possible.

14 February 2001

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