Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Eighth Report

Annex A

Extract from The Independent, 20 December 2001


A member of the powerful committee that decided not to renew the contract of the parliamentary watchdog, Elizabeth Filkin, has failed to declare thousands of pounds in the Register of Members' Interests.

Archy Kirkwood, spokesman for the secretive House of Commons Commission, has received more than £100,000 from a Trust of which he is a director. The accounts of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust show that since 1989 he has received regular payments to support research relating to his role as an MP.

But payments totalling more than £14,500, made in 1989 and 1992 to Mr Kirkwood by the Trust, do not appear to have been recorded in the Register of Members' Interests. Last night the Liberal Democrat MP said he needed to check his records but believed he may have inadvertently "omitted" to register payments to a constituency assistant paid directly by the Trust.

There is no suggestion that Mr Kirkwood personally gained from the money. But Tory MPs last night asked whether an MP who is in charge of regulating the Commons Standards Watchdog has acted properly.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust was set up by Joseph Rowntree, a Quaker chocolate millionaire in 1904. Mr Kirkwood has been one of a few directors who since 1985 have had at their disposal more than £25m to distribute to "progressive" causes. Mr Kirkwood was made chairman in 1999.

Dozens of politicians, including Clare Short, Jack Straw and recently Peter Mandelson have benefited from the Trust's financial help.

Andrew Lansley, a senior Tory MP, said he wanted a reassurance that "someone in a senior position on the House of Commons Commission has complied fully and accurately with the House's disclosure requirements".

He said: "The Independent is undertaking a significant public service by making the public aware of the scale of these payments, principally to supporters of the Liberal Democrat and Labour party. A significant number of these payments are being paid to Archy Kirkwood as a director himself."

Yesterday Lord Shutt, who is the Trust's finance director, said money had helped fund research projects, including work on freedom of information and a report on community care. No money was paid to Mr Kirkwood himself.

Payments from 1989 to 1992, exceeding £50,000, were awarded by the Trust to Mr Kirkwood to "strengthen his hand" as an MP after a recommendation by the former chairman, Trevor Smith. "Trevor [now Lord Smith of Clifton] realised what an enormous workload Archy has, because of his extensive Westminster and national party responsibilities, as well as servicing his rural constituency and that was to give assistance to strengthen his hand," Lord Shutt said.

The money paid the salary of Paul Jacobs, an assistant who worked from 1989 to 1992 for Mr Kirkwood in his Scottish constituency. Payments of £1,849, which appear in the Trust's annual accounts for 1989, do not appear to have been declared by Mr Kirkwood in the Register. In 1992 a payment to Mr Kirkwood of £12,716 appears in the Trust's accounts. It is not in the MP's Registry entry for December of that year or in the next register in January 1994.

Elizabeth Filkin, the outgoing Standards Commissioner, who has this week written to the Speaker listing MPs who took part in a "whispering campaign" against her, may be asked to investigate the claim.

Yesterday Mr Kirkwood said that he may have inadvertently omitted to register payments from the Trust to his assistant and was "investigating it." He said: "The money that applies to the 1989 and 1992 trust accounts is all money that was paid as salary to Paul Jacobs, who was my constituency assistant. There was a month in 1989 when he started to work for me when his first month's salary was paid direct to him, unbeknown to me ... In retrospect that might be an omission. I don't know but I'm investigating it."

Asked about the 1992 Register, Mr Kirkwood said: "Similarly in 1992 ... the Trust continued to pay him direct--not through me--three months salary, which enabled him to get another job. But I then took him off my Register and that may have been an omission as well. But I need time to look into this."

Most of Mr Kirkwood's payments from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust are correctly recorded in the register, as is his unpaid Trust directorship.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 24 April 2002