Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Question 160-179)



  160. That is right. They are one and the same.
  (Mr Robinson) Can I finish?

  161. I am just picking up on what you told me.
  (Mr Robinson) May I finish? That remains utterly the case, utterly the case. Now, at that time I said I had totally forgotten about the management contract. Whether knowing about the management contract I would have any reason to change that statement, the answer is no, no, no, absolutely not, but I would have brought all the further information to Sir Gordon, of course I would. The answer I gave to Sir Gordon is totally correct. Had I had this further information at the time, about which I had forgotten, my answer would still be no, just as it is to Sir Gordon. There is this wholly, it seems to me, clear distinction between my role as deputy chairman of Hollis which involved nothing at all, it is purely titular there for their convenience and the real work I was doing for Lock. The minute I am asked "were you remunerated in your capacity as deputy chairman of Hollis?" the answer is obviously so clearly to me "no". Then we come to your next point which is since you have this pecuniary interest you are expecting payment from Lock, even though it was subject to the overriding agreement of the chairman, and my answer is to you given that overriding precondition, which proved in the event to be correct, I was correct in not doing so. Let me just finish, and I have finished now, when you deal with the Central & Sheerwood money, again then you can say you have done all that work, although there is nothing in writing and you would be expecting some payment. How was I to know that at the end of the day payment would be forthcoming? All I can tell you, and it is absolutely true, of course, is that immediately it was forthcoming it was fully declared in the most correct manner. So why should I take one payment one way and one the other? That is a separate issue we can get on to.

  162. You did not declare Lock either, not only Hollis.
  (Mr Robinson) I did not have any money from Lock.

  163. You had pecuniary interests in Lock.
  (Mr Robinson) You were arguing that.[6] I am saying that because, in my view, subject to the overriding approval of the chairman, and I think you are fighting on a very narrow point, if I may say so, to make a very narrow point, because it has got nothing to do with whether I received the money or not, quite frankly I do not believe there was any difference between the two positions since in both cases it was Mr Maxwell's ultimate decision.

  164. We are not going to get any further, we will beg to differ on that, we might as well recognise that fact. The final question, I hope. You implied to the Chairman, I think you said categorically in fact, that you did not remember that you had not been paid. That sits rather strangely alongside the evidence of Mr Stoney who referred to you chasing him a couple of times about the non-payment, or chasing further a couple of times about the non-payment.
  (Mr Robinson) A couple of times.

  165. When did you suddenly get a blank of memory that you had not been paid?
  (Mr Robinson) The question is not that, the question is how we came no longer to pursue that payment. I think that is the question.

  166. Yes.
  (Mr Robinson) I have been through this several times and I will go through it again, if I may. Let me just do it, if I can, my way. It is eight years and you are asking me to remember a lot of things.

  167. We understand that.
  (Mr Robinson) I am doing my best. Because I am innocent I do not mind how much truth I tell. The situation went like this: November, I am pushing, okay?

  168. November?
  (Mr Robinson) In 1990 I am pushing for payment.

  169. Yes.
  (Mr Robinson) And I write down that in one week in November—it is somewhere in our papers here—Mike Stoney said we will get paid that week. It was obviously a hot potato and Bob was not having any of it. Then I seemed to get an agreement with them to pay it on 7 November and I say "one down, one to go". But, again, we did not get it. I then have my conversation with Dick Rimington and I say to him "Dick, I am getting nowhere on this, what the hell am I going to do, it is just not fair" and he says "what about all your work for Central & Sheerwood" and—I do not know whether he will remember this—what he said was "all roads lead to Rome, you must go and talk to Bob about it". I then set up the conversation with Bob and tried for 4 December, we worked it on the 12th, and I said to him if he agrees to pay the individual thing and at that point I get 150,000 from my personal work at Central & Sheerwood, no contract involved. Although I was not a director you could say I should have declared that directorship because I was in anticipation of pecuniary interest, but I did not think that I was, nor did I know I would be. He then agrees it, there is a proper board memorandum drawn up, which was not presented by the Commissioner, the payment is made, I declare, and at that point, I believe, we decided to give up on the management contract.

  170. That is slightly different. It is not that you did not remember whether you had been paid or not, you decided that you would not bother to press the fact that you had not been paid.
  (Mr Robinson) I am so sorry, I have to explain.

  171. Am I misunderstanding what you are saying, Geoffrey? I am not trying to trick you, I promise.
  (Mr Robinson) I was always aware we had never been paid for the management contract. Always, from day one, that is what I have said to everybody from the first time it appeared. At Jeremy's offices, in the city, talking to my QC at the time, I said "I have no recollection of this at all, less still any recollection of being paid, I am sure we were not". As you go through your things, you go through your notebooks, you go through your diaries, you go through everything, you start to remember things. One thing we are all quite clear about, all of us who were involved there, is we received no payment for it. That is Mr Stoney, that is Mr Maxwell, that is Mr Davis, that is Mr Ahmed and myself.

  172. You see, Geoffrey, and I do not mean this in any snide way, I understand you live in a different financial world from a lot of us. If somebody owed me £200,000 and did not pay me, even if I decided I would not press the matter further, I think I would not have been as forgiving as you and would bear a considerable sense of grievance about being deprived of money. I would have remembered that very readily.
  (Mr Robinson) I would have thought one thing about my character that is fairly clear since all these problems started to hit me is that I do not bear grievances and I do not get uptight about things. I do not have any personal animus against those who are trying to destroy my career, because that is what they are trying to do. I have none of that. I have none of that, so for me it is not surprising. One thing you are overlooking, though, on the sheer factual side of this is that this was such a good deal for us, which is quite clear from what the Commissioner says in her report. We were hard strapped, we needed access to new money, we were getting a stock market quotation. We had TransTec. There was pressure on me financially. Everything was terrific. Why would we not make a big issue at that stage? I had not been paid for the work I had done personally[7] for £200,000 the benefit of which was in the company we were getting at the pre-agreed price. The company was worth more, because we had done more. It is one thing I seem to have great difficulty in getting through on the Committee, as I did with the Commissioner. It seems so obvious to me that on the big issue it was something we could just say, "Okay, let's forget it, let's get on with the other one." We were still doing the work, of course.

  173. Why was it so important, then, that you guaranteed the balance of £300,000 would be paid off?
  (Mr Robinson) The £200,000.

  174. No, the £300,000. There was £500,000. £200,000 of it was reduced in commitment, and there was a commitment from you—I cannot quite find where it is, I know it is somewhere here—where it was said that you then guaranteed that the other £300,000 would be paid. If it did not matter, why did you do it?
  (Mr Robinson) That is the Roll Centre. Well, they had some doubt about the Roll Centre debt. We could not bring it in because it was not into profit yet. I said, "I can deal with it", which I did.

  175. Can I say one thing in conclusion, Chairman. Geoffrey and I did work in a way almost together when I was Industry Minister. At that time I can say that in relation to the workers' co-operative triumph, I know that at that stage Geoffrey gave his time to the co-operative without any charge, so I have experience where he has done that. I just want to say that, in fairness to you. Thank you, Chairman.
  (Mr Robinson) Thank you very much.

Mr Bottomley

  176. I have two very quick questions which I think can have simple answers. We know the evidence from Pergamon AGB's cashbook, we know from the Pergamon AGB's bank statements, we know from Mr Stoney's note on the invoice paid to Hollis, and we know from the supplementary note invoice Pergamon AGB to Hollis, that that provides significant support for the fact that a payment of £200,000 was made by Pergamon AGB in December 1990 to settle the invoice for management services provided to Lock. Do you accept that that leads to the conclusion that payment was made?
  (Mr Robinson) No. No, I do not think any of those—

  177. Was the answer that you do not?
  (Mr Robinson) No, I do not think any of those is direct proof.

  178. The answer is no, is that right?
  (Mr Robinson) No.

  179. You agree the answer is no?
  (Mr Robinson) Yes.

6   Note by witness: It was TransTec, rather than me, which had pecuniary interests in Lock. Back

7   Note by witness: I should have instead said that TransTec had not been paid for the work it had done. Back

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