Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Question 120-139)



Mr Bruce

  120. Is there a distinction here between the point at which it ceased to be Geoffrey Robinson's money, or never was Geoffrey Robinson's money, and became the company's money?
  (Mr Robinson) I will have to ask you to speak up. I am going deaf.

  121. You started off by saying "I", it was a Geoffrey Robinson invoice. Now you are talking about "we" and "the company". I just want to know the point at which in your own mind you said "I have issued an invoice from my own address to be paid to the company which I processed and checked" and at some point "I did not need to process it any more because we had a deal".
  (Mr Robinson) I do not know which company you are referring to there. If we just take the two things. The invoice says "Please make this payable to Transfer Technology" and because I had not put VAT on I then suggested it should be paid to me. Basically that is not a properly constructed invoice, I am not sure I would be capable of doing it. It was to chase up the process whereby the bill would be paid to TransTec, the management services contract would be paid to TransTec. I, personally, is something totally separate from that. That is Lock. Hollis, if you like, of which it is a subsidiary. There were two other companies which were called Central & Sheerwood, the holding companies for the two—and this is how it all started—motor industry companies in Coventry, which is where it all started. I suggested to Bob I could take them on and make something of them. I had run them for 3.5 years, pretty hands on. I was pleased to do it. I was meant to be selling them at one point and I could see they were too good companies to sell. We really did make a go of them. When we could see we were not getting anywhere, do not forget I wanted both, I say in my own notebook "one down and one to go", we thought we were going to get the Lock money, we never did. So I went out and I spoke to Bob myself—this was the only time I spoke to him. I never spoke to Maxwell about the management contract at all. The first time I spoke to him about the money for C&S, you will find it in the notebook, it is all there, 12th December, and I said to him "Look...", I did not bring in the other thing because obviously it was annoying him and he did not want to pay it and all of that is quite self-evident from the affidavit of Kevin. I did not make any reference to it at all. I never talked to him about that. I said to him "Look, I have done 3.5 years now at C&S. This year we are accruing £150,000 for management charges". I had never taken a penny before, not even expenses. I said "Why do I not take that" and that seemed to be a fair arrangement after three and a half years, "We are coming up to the end of the year". I can still hear him now saying "Very sensible". It was probably the first time I talked to him about either of the issues. I never talked to him about the management contract.

  122. There was never any formal writing off and getting any credit for this or anything like that?
  (Mr Robinson) On what?

  123. On the formal process of saying "We forego that management contract".
  (Mr Robinson) We are back to the other one?

  124. We are going forward. The point I am asking is you issued an invoice and then you said "We decided we were going to get a deal" and, therefore, that was much more valuable.

  (Mr Robinson) And after I had been paid further for the work I had done. 125. There was no process of formally crediting, writing off, destroying, recording the fact that charge was no longer in play?
  (Mr Robinson) No. May I say that may not be surprising since we had never tried to bring it into the merger negotiation. It was always agreed that it would never be part of the multiple that would give you the value to the company. I was not part of all the work they were doing. Yes, we just agreed to let it drop.

Mr Williams

  126. Geoffrey, you said that you thought you were going to get Lock money but you never did?
  (Mr Robinson) Yes.[3]

  127. The Register of Interest says that Members are required to register any employment which is remunerated or in which the Member has a pecuniary interest. You had a pecuniary interest in Lock, £200,000.
  (Mr Robinson) That did not start to erase the invoice.

  128. You expected it, while you working for it you were building up your entitlement.
  (Mr Robinson) It was always subject to his approval. It comes back to the other point there. I would have been wrong in registering it since I had not had it.

  129. That is your interpretation, that is not what the Register says. Sorry, Geoffrey, let us get this clear. The Register says where you have a pecuniary interest you would enter into a contract, a deal, so you had a pecuniary interest. Whether you have got it or not depends on whether you managed to fulfil what they expected of you. You therefore were working, because it was referred to as a difficult job, you referred to it yourself as a difficult job, you had taken on this difficult job for which you expected to be remunerated. You had a pecuniary interest in that company, did you not?
  (Mr Robinson) It never occurred to me like that.

  130. Put it another way. If someone works for you and gets paid a month in arrears, do you think they have any pecuniary interest in you in the month up until they get paid?
  (Mr Robinson) I do not think that is comparable and I do not think that is fair. The issue is where you have a written agreement which is subject to the chairman of the other company's approval, do you have something that is definite to register? I took the view—I am not sure I took the view but if I was asked now with the benefit of hindsight I have now I would say no. I think the fact I never got the money proves that I was right. Could I just say similarly with Central & Sheerwood I did not register it until I got it. The moment I got it I registered it.

  131. If you look at paragraph 33, if it was so nebulous and so uncertain why did you argue for so much detail over the time covered by paragraph 33 on the nature of the return you were to get if you were not expecting to get it?
  (Mr Robinson) I think we[4] were expecting to get it, we were hopeful to get it. There is no doubt about that.

  132. You had a pecuniary interest in it.
  (Mr Robinson) Subject to his approval, Alan. His approval was the ultimate thing that mattered and that was not certain.

  133. Well, that does not alter the fact you were working in anticipation of a reward if you satisfied those who were employing you in that role?
  (Mr Robinson) Yes.

  134. I suggest in the view of most people sitting here they would regard that as having a pecuniary interest. You were working in anticipation of a reward if you were able to fulfil your commitment.
  (Mr Robinson) Let us put it another way. It was not me, it was always envisaged that it would be TransTec.

  135. It is clear we not going to agree on this.
  (Mr Robinson) No, but it is also a very valid point that if it was TransTec fulfilling the contract, which it was, "Would you please make payable to TransTec" then I do not have anything to declare.

  136. We will go on a bit further.
  (Mr Robinson) Is that not correct, I am asking?

  137. I will think on that.
  (Mr Robinson) Okay.

  138. Coming back to the invoice that we have crawled over. Now you have been questioned about the fact that it was you who invoiced Hollis Industries. On your behalf you invoiced Hollis Industries. The use of the term "industries" is in itself important in what I am going to say and it is repeated in the written note at the bottom: "H Industries". Now, first of all, you are experienced financially, would you expect someone, a company, to pay an invoice to them for services which had not been provided to them or would you say their auditors would challenge it?
  (Mr Robinson) I think an invoice that had "Orchards" at the top would have been challenged immediately because you cannot pay a house, so that is the first thing that would have happened. I make no apology for doing it that way. The thing was it was not so much intended as being an invoice for these services, it was something that Kevin could take to his father.

  Mr Williams: It says "for management services provided to Hollis Industries".

  Mr Bottomley: It says "pay Transfer Technology Limited".

Mr Williams

  139. Yes. Now the important thing is an auditor would be entitled to come along and say "I cannot clear this. I cannot authorise this. This should have been authorised".
  (Mr Robinson) Yes.

3   Note by witness: Not me, but TransTec. Back

4   Note by witness: TransTec Back

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