Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Eighth Report


Response to questions raised by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in her aide memoire dated 29 January 2002

1.    The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd (previously the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd—name change 5 April 1990) was formed in 1904. It is one of the three Trusts established by Joseph Rowntree, the Quaker, who was a chocolate manufacturer.

The thinking behind its establishment is best set out by referring to the "1904 Memorandum" of 29 December 1904 (copy enclosed). The company is a limited company (by guarantee) and the present company was formed in 1939 to follow the original company which was established for only a 35 year period.

A more descriptive account of the current work of the Trust, "Trusting in Change" is also enclosed.

As a Director I have been involved since 1984, on a quarterly basis, in considering grant applications and from time to time involved in Trust discussions that have resulted in project work in areas of interest to my fellow Directors/Trustees and myself.

Joseph Rowntree was a Quaker but from the earliest days non-Quakers have been appointed Directors; we have in recent years tended to have a 50:50 Quaker/non­Quaker balance on the board.

All our decisions are recorded in minutes as "resolved", but our decision making is by Quaker business method of consensus rather than by formal vote.

2.    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 non­remunerated interests in the Register, I wrote to the Registrar on 28 December 1994 asking to include three directorships—none of which were remunerated—and those were put into the miscellaneous section of the Register. One of these directorships was of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

3.    I became Chairman of the Trust on 24 September 1999. My only additional role as Chairman is to moderate the quarterly meetings of the Trust, and I therefore saw no need to register any change.

4.    The JRSST Charitable Trust (this is the full name) is a charity which was formed by the then Directors of the Joseph Rowntree Social Service Trust Ltd on 1 December 1955.

The Directors at that time found that they were using some of their non­charitable income on charitable giving and therefore decided it was appropriate to settle a small proportion of their assets into a Charitable Trust, to be under the same control as the Limited Company. The Limited Company operates under the jurisdiction of the Companies Act, whereas the JRSST Charitable Trust operates under Charity Commission jurisdiction. If an application comes before Directors for which an award can be made using charitable funds then the award, if it is made, is paid from the Charitable Trust.

5.    All the sums of money for projects with which I have been involved since I became a Director are properly recorded in the extract from the accounts which I have already provided.

Directors have been supplied with an e~mail system in order to assist us to communicate with each other and receive documents from the York Trust Office between quarterly meetings.

6.    The now retired company secretary and the former auditor clearly did not properly allocate the expenditure correctly when they were finalising the accounts after the 31 December 1992 year­end. They made a straightforward error.

7.    I confirm that the 1989-1992 payments, with the exception of the £2000 referred to, do relate to the employment plus the severance pay of Mr Paul Jacobs.

8.    Mr Julian Astle completed his work on the Care in the Community/Long Term Care booklet (copy enclosed) and organised the publication and subsequent promotion of the recommendations contained in the booklet in December 1996 and early 1997. He had stopped working on the project by the time the 1997 election took place and he therefore provided no assistance of any kind for me in the new Parliament elected in 1997.

The entry of £2000 to Roxburgh and Berwickshire Liberal Democrats listed in the accounts to 31 December 1997 is the amount referred to as a contribution of more than 25 per cent of my election expenses.

Paul Jacobs

9.    I was his employer; he was paid by the Trust. I enclose a copy of the letter dated 20 November 1989 offering him the appointment. He began work in December 1 989 and worked on organisation and membership. He kindly volunteered to be my driver during part of the 1992 election campaign.

Julian Astle

10.  I employed Julian Astle. I enclose a file copy of his contract which I have found. The copy is not signed but there was a note attached to it to say that I was giving the original to Julian to sign.

Paul Hodgson

11.  Neither Professor Smith nor I were paid for work on the regulation of remuneration of top executives for which the Trust paid Paul Hodgson.

I enclose a copy of a letter from Professor Smith to Paul Hodgson dated 24 November 1998 about the project.

I drew heavily on the published document to assist me in proposing a motion on "Fat Cats' Pay" at my party conference. Unfortunately the motion based on the recommendations in the publication was heavily defeated by the conference when it voted on the motion.

Committee entertainment

12.  I received advice from the Clerk when I was elected Chairman of the Select Committee about when the Committee office was able to fund the entertainment of guests. For example I was advised that the Committee office could not pay for a lunch for guests in circumstances where there were more members of the Committee present than there were guests. It was not possible for the Committee office to pay the expenses when one or two members of the committee wished to have lunch with an individual whose expertise could assist the committee's work.

All the members of my Committee were always told of the events that were held and knew the source of the funding of the hospitality. This can be verified by checking with the current Clerk to the Committee on Work and Pensions.

Political lobbying

13.  The Trust makes grants to individuals or organisations based on applications. The merits of the applications are judged in accordance with the objects of the company/Trust. If they are found to be compatible with the Memorandum of Association (copy enclosed) and have the Directors' support the applicant receives a grant and has to account for the expenditure at the end of the project. As an organisation we do not engage in political lobbying.

14.  The Memorandum of Association is enclosed. The Trust provided the information sought about bodies receiving grants in extracts from our accounts sent in a letter to Sir Gordon Downey dated 9/6/98 for year-end 31/12/97; in letters to Mrs Filkin dated 18/5/99 for year-end 31/12/98; dated 24/5/00 for year­end 31/12/99 and finally dated 25/4/01 for year-end 31/12/00. Copies of these notes can be provided again if the originals are no longer readily to hand.

Conflict of interest

15.  It never occurred to me that my award making work with the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust would involve a conflict of interest of any kind. I have always understood that the Register of Interests was designed to record monies or benefits being made available to me, and not the other way round.

It has never been the practice of the Directors to exclude colleagues from meetings. I have always contributed to discussions about all grants made including those projects in which I had an active personal interest. Following the Quaker principle of the importance of "strengthening the hand" it has always been an important part of the culture of the Trust than individual Trustees should be personally involved in the work of the Trust and "should themselves direct and guide the appropriation of the funds".

16.  An appropriate sum has always been given to the constituency associations of Directors who have sought election to Parliament. In that respect I was treated in the same way as my other colleagues on the Trust who were parliamentary candidates.

17.  I have never felt any conflict in my role as a Trust Director and my role as Select Committee Chairman or House of Commons Commissioner.

I cannot recall ever having declared an interest by virtue of my involvement with the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust in any parliamentary proceedings.

As far as I can recall the Committee has never taken evidence from bodies supported by the Trust. In the last Parliament I did declare an interest as a non-practising member of the Law Society of Scotland before the Committee took evidence from representatives of that Society. I also declared the fact that I was a Trustee of the Low Pay Unit when the Committee took evidence from them in the last Parliament.

There are no occasions on which I think it would have been wise to declare an interest because of my involvement with the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, and my grant making work with the Trust has never affected my judgement in any aspect of my parliamentary work.

18.  I think these two complaints are frivolous and that they should be dismissed.

9 March 2002

Archy Kirkwood

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