Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report


Memorandum submitted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

Complaint against Mr Geoffrey Robinson MP

The Complaint

1.    I have received a complaint from Mr David Heathcoat-Amory, Member for Wells, against Mr Geoffrey Robinson, Member for Coventry North West.

2.    In his letter, dated 19 March 2001 (Annex A), Mr Heathcoat-Amory asked me to reopen the inquiry conducted by the Standards and Privileges Committee in 1998[7] into an allegation that Mr Robinson had failed to register a payment of £200,000 made to him by Hollis Industries plc, of which he was then chairman. Mr Heathcoat-Amory stated that relevant evidence not available to the Committee in 1998 had been discovered by Mr Tom Bower, a journalist, which had been published in his book about Mr Robinson entitled The Paymaster.

3.    The new evidence, as described by Mr Heathcoat-Amory, consisted of an invoice sent from Mr Robinson's home address to Hollis Industries claiming a "fee for management services"[8] of £200,000, on which were written, in different handwritings, two notes—the first stating "paid" and the second indicating that the fee was to be payable to Mr Robinson personally.

4.    Mr Heathcoat-Amory's letter concluded:—

    "This constitutes almost irrefutable evidence that Mr Robinson did indeed receive the disputed management fee which he failed to disclose. In evidence to the Committee [in 1998] it is recorded that 'Mr Robinson gave a categorical assurance... that he did not receive any benefit directly or indirectly in respect of his chairmanship of Hollis."

    "It would be an extremely serious matter if it was now shown that Mr Robinson or his beneficial interests had in fact received the £200,000 fee. In the light of the new evidence I would be grateful if you would reopen the enquiry into these matters and report accordingly to the Standards & Privileges Committee."

5.    In a second letter dated 26 March 2001 (Annex F), Mr Heathcoat-Amory raised the question of whether Mr Robinson had any unmet tax liabilities in relation to the payment for management services.

Standard of Proof

6.    The normal standard of proof in disciplinary cases, including allegations of breaches of the Code of Conduct or of the rules relating to the conduct of Members, is the balance of probability—in other words: is the allegation more likely to be true than not? However, in my consideration of this complaint I have assured Mr Robinson that, since the allegations against him are of a serious nature, the standard of proof I would adopt would be stricter than that.

7  Eighteenth Report, HC (1997-1998) 975. Back

8  In the document itself, this word appears in the singular (see paragraph 17). Back

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