to the Commissioner from Mr John Prescott, 18 July 2006
Thank you for your letter of 17 July. You pose a
series of questions, which I am happy to answer:
Question 1: I am happy
with your treatment of my revision to para 2 of your earlier draft;
Question 2: You are correct
that my suggested amendment to para 3 was to make the point that
I had never described my stay on Mr Anschutz's ranch as
a "day off".
Question 3: I am happy
with the new paragraphs you have added to your report, though
I raise one issue below about para 45.
Question 4: You seek
clarification on my understanding of the gifts I received from
Mr Anschutz and the process for the declaration of Ministerial
gifts under the Ministerial Code.
I apologise if my letter was not clear on the first
point. I was always aware that the items I received from
Mr Anschutz were Ministerial gifts. Indeed, as my letter states:
"I am happy to confirm that the gifts I received from Mr
Anschutz have been retained by my department and included in the
annual list due to be published shortly."
You request further responses to the questions you
posed to me, as identified by paragraph 38 of your report.
you receive any gifts from Mr Philip Anschutz during your stay
in his ranch in July 2005?
Yes, I did receive gifts and I fully understood that
they were gifts at the time. Indeed I was informed at the time
I used them that they would be posted to my office in the UK.
so, what was their nature and the estimated cash value of each
As I explained in my letter of 14 July, the nature
of the gifts I received were designed to allow me to carry out
a working day on Mr Anschutz's ranch, and, as you know, in the
usual way their value has been estimated at:
A Stetson hat£97
A pair of calf length boots£120
A belt and buckle£207
A pair of spurs - £185
A leather bound notebook (not valued)
they declared on your return to the UK to your then Permanent
Secretary? When were they declared?
The gifts were first noted by the civil servants
present with me at the ranch and, on return to the UK, duly recorded
on to the official file kept in my Private Office.
As has been the practice throughout my period in
office, I play no part in the recording, or valuing of such gifts
and have at no time sought to purchase any of the gifts received
in this time.
You seek the assurance that they were declared to
the Permanent Secretary immediately on their receipt into my office.
The record of gifts kept in my Private Office is always available
for inspection by my Permanent Secretary, and in accordance with
my department's procedures, there was no correspondence between
my Private Office and my Permanent Secretary about these gifts
- though she did see at least some of the Anschutz gifts when
they were displayed in the office on their arrival.
The practice adopted by my department is in line
with section 5.25 of the Ministerial Code, which I have an obligation
to adhere to at all times. It states that "receipt of gifts
should be reported to the Permanent Secretary". The code
does not state that this must be done "immediately",
though, as I have explained, this "requirement" was,
in practice, achieved on this occasion.
Turning to paragraph 45 of your draft report, could
I make it clear that my justification for registering under paragraph
5.28 of the Ministerial Code, was not motivated by my acceptance
of Mr Anschutz's invitation possibly being perceived as laying
me open to influence.
I received clear advice before the visit by my then
Permanent Secretary that I could stay at the ranch. I subsequently
sought advice from the Cabinet Secretary when this whole matter
came to light. His advice was that he would not have authorised
a charitable donation for this purpose and that the visit could
potentially be deemed as hospitality.
On hearing this I decided for the absolute avoidance
of any doubt to record the stay in the Register of Members' Interests.
As the statement issued at the time said, for the
avoidance of "any doubt" that I acted "at all times
with integrity", I therefore decided to register the stay
by me and my civil servants in the Register of Members' Interests.