Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260-279)|
10 MARCH 2009
Q260 Lord Irvine of Lairg: If we
can just get through this transcript. You said that if need be
you would get a peer to move the required amendment.
Lord Snape: I do not think I did. Can
you point that out to me?
Q261 Lord Irvine of Lairg: We are
now going to 12 and 13. You said at the foot of 12 how you would
proceed in the Commons and then you said at the top of page 13
that you would get somebody to do it and then you proceed further
down the page on 13 saying, "So, you know, you pick people
incred ...reasonably carefully".
Lord Snape: I am talking about the House
of Commons, my Lord.
Q262 Lord Irvine of Lairg: That is
the House of Commons?
Lord Snape: Yes.
Q263 Lord Irvine of Lairg: If that
would be proper in the case of the House of Commons it would be
equally proper, would it, in the case of the House of Lords?
Lord Snape: As we both know the proceedings
are much different in the House of Lords. There is not a committee
stage as such, it is obtained on the floor of the House. The reason
why I talked in the way that I did about the House of Commons,
and I think I indicated in there, people are desperate for ideas.
The Opposition want to keep the debate going in the House of Commons
while the Government is anxious to get on with its business. As
Lord Cope and I both served in the Whips Office I think that is
a fairly accurate summing up of what normally happens down there.
It is much easier to get people, particularly the Opposition backbenchers
if they have seized upon a good idea to make speeches about things
like that. It is not always the sensible way to do it, my Lord
Chairman, for the reasons I outlined earlier, that governments
of any political hue rarely accept amendments, no matter how sensible,
from the other side, you have normally got to persuade governments
that they thought of it in the first place, or Ministers thought
of it in the first place.
Q264 Baroness Manningham-Buller:
Or in this case your clients thought of it in the first place.
Lord Snape: Again, we are back to the
Registrar and whether or not I approach anybody on that.
Q265 Lord Irvine of Lairg: At any
rate, you were saying, let it be that it is confined to the House
of Commons, that you would select with great care somebody to
move the amendment in the House of Commons.
Lord Snape: Not necessarily to move the
amendment, my Lord, but who would accept the sensible nature of
the proposal. I say somewhere else that formalising things by
an amendment is not always the sensible way to get intelligent
debate in the House of Commons.
Q266 Lord Irvine of Lairg: Well,
go to the top of page 13. He says: "And would you be, do
you think you'd be able to get it, given that you want to, I don't
know, would you be able to get an amendment tabled on the committee,
do you think? PS: Yes. I mean, I'd get somebody to do it, yeah,
I mean". That is beyond argument.
Lord Snape: Yes, indeed. Again, it is
one of a series of alternatives, my Lord, it is not necessarily
the sensible way to do it. I am replying to what is apparently
a casual question from them in the course of a long conversation.
Q267 Lord Irvine of Lairg: It is
not a casual question, it is really a very serious question if
this is a way that you could go about it and you are saying yes.
Lord Snape: It is a way that I could
go about it, a blanket amendment provided I had been given the
but it is no more than that. It is one of a series of alternatives,
my Lord, that I could have suggested.
Q268 Lord Irvine of Lairg: But this
is the only one we are talking about at the moment.
Lord Snape: Yes, I understand that.
Q269 Lord Irvine of Lairg: You say
a little further in the page, and then I will fall silent, "So,
you know, you pick people incred ..." and then you pause
and change it to "reasonably carefully".
Lord Snape: I am sorry, can you just
tell me where you are?
Q270 Lord Irvine of Lairg: A third
of the way into page 13 of 33.
Lord Snape: Yes.
Baroness Manningham-Buller: You say, "So,
you know, you pick people incred ..."
Q271 Lord Irvine of Lairg: "Reasonably
Lord Snape: Reasonably carefully, yes.
Q272 Lord Irvine of Lairg: It is
perfectly obvious what you are saying, that you would select with
reasonable care an appropriate person to table the amendment.
Lord Snape: What I actually meant was
there were certain people that I would not ask to do anything
because of (a) their own political views, perhaps somebody on
the left of the Labour Party would not approve of alleviating
the burden on business, and I use that just as an example
Q273 Lord Cope of Berkeley: First
of all, your description of what happens in committees I entirely
accept, it happens from time to time, but the question I had was
when you say, "I'd get somebody to do it", that is to
say to table an amendment, bearing in mind this is as a result
of a paid consultancy, how is that not promoting a matter in return
for payment or other material benefit?
Lord Snape: Again, this is all based on my earlier
conversation about talking to the Registrar of Members' Interest
and registering that interest. Bear in mind, if I had accepted
a paid consultancy, my Lords, from this mythical company it would
have gone straight into the Register of Members' Interests. If
the Registrar had then pointed out that one of the companies that
is part of MJA, or one of the clients of MJA is a direct beneficiary
and, therefore, I could not go ahead with any of this, I would
not have done so. I think it is a bit difficult if you are representing
a client who has many diverse businesses. Later on this particular
company talk about aviation and aerospace. Does that mean that
I would not be allowed, if I was a consultant to themDoes
that mean anything that even impinges remotely on aviation would
be beyond my ability to speak on or amend? I would take advice,
I would take advice from anybody, and I would certainly take advice
from the Registrar, but if those lines are drawn extremely closely
then any sort of consultancy arrangement in the upper House would
be held to be improper.
Q274 Lord Cope of Berkeley: My question
was if you had got somebody to table an amendment as a result
of your consultancy, do you accept, whatever the Registrar said,
that would be flat against the rule against promoting any matter
in return for payment, et cetera?
Lord Snape: I would have said to the
person, if I accepted this consultancy with MJA, "Look, I
have a consultancy with MJA. One of their clients first suggested
this, I refused to do it on the basis that you cannot benefit
one particular person, but is it not a sensible idea and would
you consider an amendment that would alleviate this rates burden
on every start-up business on a time-limited basis?" Now,
if that were held to be contrary to rule 4(c) my Lord Chairman,
then obviously I would be in breach of that rule. Again, I fall
back, and I do not do this deliberately and nor am I trying to
shuffle off responsibility, I would have taken advice before I
had done anything, as I have done previously. Speaking generally,
my Lord Chairman, I would ask not necessarily to be judged on
loose and casual language in an hour long conversation but on
my own record in both Houses. I have never done anything to break
the rules in either House and nor would I.
Q275 Baroness Manningham-Buller:
This may have been covered. Lord Snape, just clarify for my benefit,
please. I think you said a minute ago you thought some of these
things you were talking about the possibility of doing would not
be sensible to do because there would be cleverer ways of doing
them and more likely to be effective. What I would like your views
on is the principle. Whether it is sensible or not seems to me
less important than whether it fits with the Code of Conduct.
Lord Snape: Yes.
Q276 Baroness Manningham-Buller:
Obviously you would have referred to the Registrar, but on your
reading of paragraph 4 of the Code of Conduct, and in particular
the last two points of it, do you think with hindsight and on
reflection that offering to get someone to table an amendment
and picking them is within the Code of Conduct?
Lord Snape: On reflection and with hindsight,
no, I do not.
Q277 Lord Dholakia: Can I just pursue
that particular point. Lord Snape, you say that in November you
put forward a number of amendments and then withdrew them.
Lord Snape: No, I did not, with respect,
my Lord. I left them on the table, I did not move them.
Q278 Lord Dholakia: What was the
reason for not moving them?
Lord Snape: I looked at them and thought
someone could say that I was benefiting First Group because they
are one of the big bus conglomerates, as you know, by moving an
amendment which would haveI do not want to get into the
technicalities of it because I am not sure whether you are familiar
with the bus business. It would have made it more difficult for
the local authorities, some of whom wished to retake control of
their bus services, to do so and I thought on reflection I would
be benefiting First Group as well as the bus business. I thought
they were two eminently sensible amendments, to be quite honest,
but it might be said that I was benefiting First Group, for whom
I have a paid consultancy, so I left them on the table.
Q279 Lord Dholakia: Would that criterion
not apply similarly in relation to the amendment that you said
you would try and promote in the Commons?
Lord Snape: Indeed it might, and on reflection
I might not have done anything at all without even going to the
Registrar of Members' Interests.
7 Comment by the witness: or otherwise by the Registrar. Back