Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Eighth Report

Annex Fiv

Letter to the former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr Archy Kirkwood MP

Thank you very much for your letter of 23 January about complaints which have been raised by Mr Adrian Flook MP and the former MP Mr Ian Bruce.

Since the two complaints against me relate to my role in the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd, it may be helpful if I provide an explanation of all sums of money shown against my name in the Trust accounts since I was appointed a director and trustee in December 1984. I enclose a copy extract of accounts detailing these amounts provided by the company auditors Messrs Garbutt Elliott [see Annex Eii]. For ease of reference I have colour-coded entries that relate to the same project.

The set of entries shown coloured orange [marked *] covering the years 1989 to 1992 relate to an assistant, Paul Jacobs, who worked for me helping with organisation in my constituency. Mr Jacobs was engaged by and paid by the Trust from their office in York. He started work in December 1989 and his employment ended in April 1992 (I earlier thought that it was May 1992 but I have since been advised that his employment ended in April). I enclose copies of correspondence between myself and the Registrar of Member's Interests which confirms that my 1990 entry in the Register was not made within the 28 day period. I very much regret the delay but I understand that I need take no further action as I remedied the omission at my own hand in November 1990. For the avoidance of doubt I confirm that the Trust made Mr Jacobs a severance payment in 1992 while he looked for other work but his service with me had ended with the general election and I had no declarable interest after then.

The entries coloured green [marked †] and covering the years 1995 to 1997 relate to a project which I was asked by the Trust to oversee producing a booklet on alternative financial systems for paying for long term care of the elderly. A researcher, Julian Astle, was engaged by the Trust and paid by them from their office in York. He was paid a salary of around £14,000 per annum with expenses to research and write up his work and the Trust paid for the printing of the subsequent booklet. He began work in October 1995 and stopped in or just before April 1997. The 1997 figure includes the publication costs of the booklet.

The entries shaded in yellow [marked ‡] relate to a smaller Trust project of a similar kind undertaken by myself and my fellow Director, Professor Trevor Smith, to research and write a pamphlet on proposals for the regulation of remuneration packages awarded to top executives of publicly quoted companies in the United Kingdom. The research was undertaken by Paul Hodgson during a period of around nine months starting in 1998. He was employed by the Trust and paid directly from their office in York at the rate of around £17,500 per annum.

The entries shaded in pink [marked **] relate to the reimbursement of expenses incurred by me as Chairman of the Select Committee on Work and Pensions (formerly the Social Security Select Committee) not otherwise eligible for reimbursement under the current arrangements for committee entertaining. The Trustees agreed that I could reclaim up to a total of £2000 per Parliament. Before I accepted the Trust's offer I discussed it with the then Clerk of the Select Committee.

For purposes of illustration, the most recent claims I made for repayment from this source were for two sums in the region of £50 to cover the costs of two lunches in the Adjournment restaurant in Portcullis House (copy receipts attached). The first, on 16 January, was with the committee specialist adviser to meet Sir Thomas Boyd Carpenter, the current chairman of the Social Security Advisory Committee, and his assistant. The second, on 17 January, was for the committee clerk and the specialist adviser to meet Mr Leigh Lewis, the newly appointed Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, to discuss issues of mutual interest. Neither of these lunches was reclaimable under Select Committee arrangements but both were extremely useful in promoting the work of the Committee on Work and Pensions. The assistance given to me to cover these expenses enables me to do more of this kind of entertaining than I could afford from my own pocket.

With regard to my constituency association, for the sake of completeness I asked the auditors to show all assistance paid to my constituency association over the past 17 years and these figures are shown in the right-hand column.

All of these items came from decisions taken by the Trust directors at properly constituted meetings.

As you may know, the Trust already automatically sends copies of the annual reports with all the details explicitly shown both to your own office and to the Office of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The Directors of the Trust have always pursued a policy of disclosure of information that goes far beyond anything required of us under the Companies Acts.

The Trust makes grants in response to applications and the directors decide on the merit of each application, whether the application falls within the aims and objects of the Company, and whether it would provide value for money.

I confess I have always been under the impression that financial interests which need to be registered are those which Members receive or from which they otherwise derive benefit. I have not understood the rules to apply to awards made to others by organisations with which Members are associated.

I turn now to the two complaints from Mr Flook and Mr Bruce.

I deny the allegations in the second paragraph of Mr Flook's letter of 19 January. I refer to my earlier explanation of the way that Paul Jacobs worked as an assistant and was paid by the Trust. Subject to the delayed registration date in 1990, I believe my correspondence with the Registrar provides an adequate response to the claims made against me. With reference to the allegation that I did not declare my Trust directorship in every register, the guidance which used to be given about directorships was that they should be declared if they were 'remunerated directorships of companies, public or private'. The quotation comes from the introduction to the 1992 edition of the Register. However, at the end of December 1994, as I had learned that Members by then seemed to be including non-renumerated interests in the Register, I wrote to the Registrar asking to include three directorships—none of which were renumerated—and those were put into the miscellaneous section of the Register.

With regard to my registration details for 1997, I have given a full account above of the work done by Julian Astle on the long-term care projected funded by the Trust, which was at an end by April 1997. My constituency association received support totalling £2000 in 1997. I deny any ambiguity surrounding these payments.

In so far as they have any bearing of any kind on my declaration of Member's interests, I deny that my election expenses in 1992 or 1997 were inaccurate.

I believe that all other complaints contained in Mr Flook's letter have been dealt with above, and that his complaint should be dismissed.

Turning to the two letters of complaint from Mr Bruce, I deny that the Trust is engaged in political lobbying. The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust makes awards to organisations from all sides of the political spectrum whose applications for funding for projects accord with the company's articles of association, and between the general elections of 1997 and 2001 the Trust made awards totalling £285,000 to Conservative party related bodies.

I have explained the kind of use to which the £2000 fund which I am able to use for expenses relating to my Select Committee chairmanship is put, and I deny that this creates conflict of any kind in the work I do as the Committee's chairman.

I also reject the assertion that I am under any duty as a director or chairman of the Trust to declare or record individual awards properly made by the Trust, unless I receive from them.

When I become chairman of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Limited I had no wish to become chairman of JRRT (Properties) Limited or JRRT (Investments) Limited, and I am not chairman of either despite what Mr Bruce alleges as you will see from the enclosed examples of copies of their reports and financial statements.

I am chairman of the Trustees of the JRSST Charitable Trust, which is endowed by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. This position is not a directorship (and is not renumerated) and I do not see that this is something which needs to be registered separately.

The illustration which Mr Bruce gives of a speech I made in which I should have declared an interest (or very many interests) is beyond me. After Peter Mandelson stopped being Secretary of State for Northern Ireland he put a proposal to the Trust for a two year project to promote regional government in England. Because of the Trust's long standing interest in this area the Trust awarded him a grant. I cannot see why I should have declared that when acknowledging Mr Mandelson's record of working for peace in Northern Ireland. The grants which the Trust awarded to people or groups in Norther Ireland which Mr Bruce then lists demonstrates the wide areas supported by the Trust with its Quaker background of concern about civic society matters and the promotion of peace. As I said earlier, I do not see why I should declare any interest in these circumstances because I have not benefited from these grants.

The one point on which I would accept what Mr Bruce says is that I did not put 'Ltd' on the end of the Trust's name when I registered my directorship. That was simply a matter of custom and practice when I am talking or writing about the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Limited, and if it was an error I apologise. However I deny absolutely that there was any hidden agenda behind this. It is risible to suggest as Mr Bruce has done that I intended to pretend to be part of one of the sister Rowntree Trusts which have huge charitable budgets and do excellent work. The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust pays tax on its income and uses that income to fund non-charitable causes and political causes and is proud of the unique work it does.

The complaints relating to registration and declaration raised by Mr Bruce are in my submission irrelevant and should be dismissed. The complaints relating to a potential conflict of interest are equally unfounded and I believe that they should also be dismissed.

If I can be of any further assistance please let me know. I am sorry that this letter is so long.

27 January 2002

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