Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner
from Mr Geoffrey Robinson MP
Thank you for your letter of 26 March 2001.
You have asked me to focus particularly on the possibility
of misleading information having been given to your predecessor
and the Standards and Privileges Committee. The complaint that
was investigated by that Committee was whether I had failed to
declare a payment of £200,000 remuneration received as Chairman
of Hollis Industries plc ("Hollis"). This is the same
complaint which Mr Heathcoat-Amory makes in his letter of 26 March
I should first like to deal with your questions:
1. Mr Bower's account of my conversation with
him appears at page 23 of the Daily Mail on Monday March 19, 2001.
At my meetings with Mr Bower I was at pains to explain to him
that the invoice had nothing to do with my position as non-executive
Chairman of Hollis and that I neither sough nor received payment
for this. I told him there was a £200,000 payment due to
Transfer Technology Limited for various management services provided
to Lock (a subsidiary company of Hollis), and emphasised that
I had neither directly or indirectly received the money. I further
explained to Mr Bower that whilst a cheque had been drawn down
for the amount in Pergamon, no-one in the investigation had been
able to find out into which account it had been paid. My last
remark to him, which I recall very clearly as I was fed up with
the meeting, was "Why don't you do something useful and find
out where the cheque went?". Mr Bower and the Daily Mail
have sought to distort this conversation into an admission that
I received the money. However, as you will see even from Mr Bower's
own account on page 23, I made no such admission.
2. There are several requests for information
in this point and one question. I reply to them in the reverse
order to which they appear in your letter.
I did not see any part of DTI report and I would
be interested to know from whom you understood that I did.
The new information provided to me by Mr Aldous was
essentially the cheque number 1751, the Pergamon computer cashbook
record and the Orchards invoice. In addition he also provided
me with the management accounts at October 1990 for Hollis (Tab
10) in which the payment was recorded as having already been paid
to Geoffrey Robinson by that time (clearly wrong). This, in my
view, was the source of the error which then found its way, through
their low level internal accounting systems, into the annual account.
Other new information was provided by my own active
endeavours to assist the enquiry. For example, I provided personal
papers and located the relevant former employees of Transfer Technology
Limited and asked them to conduct searches for material at TransTec
plc. We found three problems: that after ten years people's memories
were imperfect, that many papers had been destroyed, that the
company offices had been moved three times. Despite these difficulties
I managed to find and provide to Mr Aldous the Transfer Technology
Limited nominal ledger (but not the cashbook). When Mr Aldous
was having difficulty with Nat West concerning my personal accounts
I intervened personally at the highest level in the bank. They
halted their destruction of records. Unfortunately, although taking
place much later than the policy required, the destruction of
documents had reached April 1991. Nevertheless and again at my
request Nat West checked our accounts at that date, with the outcome
that will now be known to you.
I mention my own endeavours in these ways to show
that I was keen to leave no stone unturned in finding the cheque
and its destination.
The above will probably not be an exhaustive list
of new elements in the investigation but it is what I recall now
as being important in the context of the enquiry. If there are
points I have missed they will be in the correspondence you request
between myself or my advisers with the DTI enquiry which is at
Tab.1 (See point 3 below for the specific information requested
on Pergamon's computer cashbook records).
During the course of the DTI enquiry I met with Mr
Aldous on three occasions. Meetings took place with my advisers
present on 30 June and 8 November 1999. Unfortunately no notes
were made. The purpose of the meetings was to discuss the progress
of the enquiry and to ask me any questions he wished.
The third meeting took place late in November at
my request just between the two of us in my flat at the Grosvenor
House. (Unfortunately I do not have my diary to hand to give the
exact date). My purpose in requesting this meeting was "to
have it out" with the Inspector on the possibility that had
been alluded tobut not properly tackled in the previous
meetingsthat I had done a secret deal with Robert Maxwell
to receive the cheque without anyone else knowing, and to have
paid it into Transfer Technology Limited or some secret account
without anyone knowing.
I put it to Mr Aldous that this scenario was quite
ludicrous, but since in the interests of the enquiry he had to
considered all possibilities I wanted him to know it was totally
untrue. Why on earth should Mr Maxwell or I have an interest in
carrying out the transaction in secret? Mr Aldous suggested that
I could save tax in this way. In that event I assured him Mr Maxwell
would want a quid pro quo and not pay the sum in full. Moreover
no one who knew Mr Maxwell would believe that he would pay anyone
£200,000 secretly one week and a further £150,000 officially
the following week. I referred him to Kevin Maxwell's verbal and
written account of the events with his father which in my opinion
had the ring of truth about them. We chatted generally about other
matters in the enquiry and more generally. But the nub of the
matter from my point of view was to make it absolutely clear that
no illicit payment had been made and I would not have been party
to such a payment.
3. My solicitor has prepared a bundle of relevant
material at Tabs 2-7. We cannot guarantee that it is exhaustive,
because once an entry is made into the system, it is simply repeated
each time a new report is produced. The bundle does, however,
contain the main relevant paperwork on the Pergamon and Hollis
side. Of course, some of this material was before the Standards
& Privileges Committee when it conducted its last enquiry.
(Tab 8 contains the missing affidavit to which I
referred in my last letter.)
4. I will have had several conversations with
Michael Stoney during the course of the DTI inquiry. I do not
have to hand the details of these, but a full meeting covering
the situation took place on 6 April 1999 with my lawyer in attendance.
My lawyer made a note of that meeting which he faxed to Michael
Stoney on 7 April 1999 in order to obtain his approval of the
note. My lawyer subsequently spoke over the telephone with Michael
Stoney and made amendments to the note to put it in its final
form agreed by Mr Stoney. The approved note was then sent to the
Inspector on 22 April 1999 and a copy is enclosed in the bundle
of correspondence (Tab 1). This meeting encapsulated the essence
of our discussions. You will see that all the relevant documentation
was discussed with Michael Stoney.
Michael Stoney swore an affidavit on 8 November 1999,
a copy of which has already been sent to you. Contrary to the
impression gained in the story in the Daily Mail, it will be quite
obvious to you that Michael Stoney swore his affidavit only after
reviewing all of the relevant paper work and under no pressure
I should add, however, that on 19 December 1990 a
payment of £150,000 was authorised to me by Central &
Sherwood plc. I attach a copy of the directors' resolution (Tab
9). On 12 December 1990 Robert Maxwell had approved this payment
in a telephone conversation with me. The payment was received
in or around January 1991. In order to receive this payment I
registered for VAT, and, naturally, income tax was paid on it.
As you will also be aware the payment was registered at Parliament.
I would draw your attention to the differences between
the treatment of this payment (registered at Parliament, registered
for VAT, income tax paid and director's resolutions obtained)
and the alleged £200,000 payment. The contrast speaks for
6. I do not recall any conversation on this matter
with Shirley Caddock, although given her position as Mr Stoney's
secretary, it is possible that I spoke to her. Like Mr Stoney
I cannot account for or understand the note in her handwriting,
save to say it may simply have been a misunderstanding. The invoice
quite categorically states that payment should be made to Transfer
Technology Limited. Were the payment to have actually been made
to Tranfer Technology Limited, the incidence of VAT would have
been neutral in any event as Hollis group companies were in a
full VAT recovery position.
7. We have never had an account in the name of
9. I spoke to Mr Robert Maxwell on 12 December
1990. During this conversation he agreed the suggestion of a payment
of £150,000 plus my expenses from Central & Sherwood
plc, the payment to which I have already referred. I do not recall
speaking with Mr Robert Maxwell at any time about the management
fee. All discussions and correspondence on the issue were conducted
through Mr Kevin Maxwell and Mr Michael Stoney.
I met Mr Kevin Maxwell on 23 October 1990 and during
the course of this meeting I will have pressed for payment of
the management fee. This led to the generation of the invoice
on 24 October 1990.
10. I have already been categoric. I did not
receive this money directly or indirectly. I confirm it was not
received in any of the accounts mentioned in Mr Heathcoat-Amory's
letter. The trusts to which Mr Heathcoat-Amory refers were not
even in existence in 1990.
11. I have already drawn your attention to the
way the Central & Sherwood payment was treated. The points
raised by Mr Heathcoat-Amory simply do not arise. I did not receive
My comments on the five numbered points in Mr Heathcoat-Amory's
letter are as follows.
1. The payment referred to was the remuneration
erroneously recorded in the accounts as being made to the Chairman,
which I repeat was never sought by myself or paid to myself, directly
or indirectly. The invoice was for services provided by Transfer
Technology Limited to Lock. Furthermore the invoice makes it clear
that the payment should be made to Transfer Technology Limited.
At the time of the enquiry conducted by Sir Gordon Downey in 1998
I had simply forgotten the management fee issue, which had occurred
eight years earlier during which time a great deal had occurred
in my business and public life. Moreover at the time I had a very
heavy load as Paymaster General. I focused on the issue of whether
I received remuneration for my position as Chairman of Hollis
which was, and is, the issue to hand.
2. This paragraph is itself misleading as a review
of the Report of the Standards & Privileges Committee will
show. The Standing Committee expressly considered the possibility
of a payment by Pergamon. I offered to pay for the expenses of
searching Pergamon records for this purpose. Sir Gordon did not
accept the offer. When the DTI enquiry got underway the Pergamon
records were searched and cheque number 1751 was found.
3. The points have already been separately dealt
with. No company associated with me received this money.
4. I would welcome your having access to the
DTI report, which I have not seen in whole or in part or in draft.
5. This point has already been dealt with.
I hope this is helpful to you. We are now due to
meet at 10.00 am on Friday 30 March at your office.
29 March 2001