The Conduct of Lord Moonie, Lord Snape, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn - Privileges Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280-299)

Lord Snape

10 MARCH 2009

  Q280  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Sorry, do you mean by that you might not even have bothered to go to the Registrar of Members' Interests because you would have decided to do nothing?

  Lord Snape: I would have decided to do nothing because—

  Q281  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Without going to the Registrar?

  Lord Snape: Yes. We are speaking hypothetically, but certainly when I reflected on the two amendments that I tabled, which I thought were eminently sensible—I use that phrase a bit too often—that would benefit the bus business as a whole, I then thought 24 hours later maybe it was not so sensible to move these because it could be said I was benefiting a company for which I had a paid consultancy, although I might have been benefiting the whole of the bus industry, so I did not move them. It might well have been the case so far as MJA consultants were concerned that I would have reflected the same. I emphasise, Lord Dholakia, that although certain words there, the ones that Lord Irvine pointed out, appear to have enormous significance, this was a casual conversation, I had signed nothing, I had tabled nothing and nor would I have done so without checking that they were within the rules of the House and particularly within 4(c) and I may well have reflected, in response to Lady Manningham-Buller's question again, that it would have been improper for me to do so under 4(c). I stress, this was an hour long conversation where we are extracting various sentences, Lord Irvine, that might have led me to reflect later on that perhaps this was not a wise course of action.

  Q282  Lord Irvine of Lairg: You knew that "MJA" only had one client, this supposed Chinese client.

  Lord Snape: No, sorry, my Lord, they say later on[8]—

(i)  page 5—(Man) "In particular, we've got one client ...because he was one of our Brussels clients"

(ii)  page 7—(PS) "I'd need to take advice, as these people are your clients"

(iii)  page 8—(PS) "I might well have to declare that you have certain clients involved in this particular field"

(iv)  page 20—(Man) "which initially we did as sort of corporate communications for, um, all sorts of, er, clients"

(v)  page 20—(Man) "We have a number of...we have some high-profile clients, reasonably high-profile clients like him, and we have some businesses. We've done work for a couple of airlines"

(vi)  page 27—(PS) "I would quite like to meet your clients"

(vii)  page 28—(Man) "I think it is sort of an irritation and when it is aggregated across many different businesses".

  Q283  Lord Irvine of Lairg: In the retail industry.

  Lord Snape: Well, they say later on they have lots of prospective clients, including the aviation business[9]. I used to be the Labour Party's aviation spokesman.

  Q284  Lord Irvine of Lairg: The amendment sought was for start-up businesses in the retail industry.

  Lord Snape: No, my Lord, it was not, with respect, it was for new start-up businesses generally.

  Q285  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Could we move to pages 15-16 of the transcript. I do not want to spend too much time over, is it, Lynda Waltho?

  Lord Snape: Yes, it is.

  Q286  Lord Irvine of Lairg: When you were with them you took up time to ring Lynda Waltho, and you described her as the Shadow Minister for the West Midlands and you were having lunch with her.

  Lord Snape: And some other people as well.

  Q287  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Some other folk as well, and she could take the opportunity of delivering a copy of the Bill to you.

  Lord Snape: One of her staff. I knew where her office was in Portcullis House, it is near the Vote Office where copies of the Bill would be held.

  Q288  Lord Irvine of Lairg: A slightly extraordinary thing to do in the course of this meeting with strangers.

  Lord Snape: I am sorry, Lord Irvine, there is nothing suspicious or extraordinary about it. We were going to a restaurant with one or two others, what is it called, it is in the old Westminster Library, and she would have to pass by my office to get there. It is an Indian restaurant.

  Q289  Baroness Manningham-Buller: The Cinnamon Club.

  Lord Snape: I am grateful.

  Q290  Lord Irvine of Lairg: I like curry, not too hot!

  Lord Snape: Very expensive curry, I might tell you, I was glad I was not paying! As my office is in Fielden House on Little College Street, she would have had to pass the office and I thought, out of sheer idleness, to save me a walk maybe she would bring me a copy of the Bill from the Vote Office. There was nothing sinister about that.

  Q291  Lord Irvine of Lairg: It was not to demonstrate to prospective clients the influence that you still had in the House of Commons?

  Lord Snape: No, the thought did not cross my mind, Lord Irvine. That is the first time it has been put in my mind.

  Q292  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Okay. We will see that does not have wide currency.

  Lord Snape:

  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Then at any rate you discussed terms for the parliamentary consultancy, did you not, at page 17, how much money?

  Baroness Manningham-Buller: And how much time.

  Q293  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Time and money.

  Lord Snape: Yes. I discussed it not specifically as far as they were concerned because I talked to them again about it, but I talked about my usual scale of charges, yes.

  Q294  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Basically it ended up at 24,000 a year, did it not?

  Lord Snape: So the Sunday Times claim.

  Q295  Lord Irvine of Lairg: What do you say?

  Lord Snape: I said it might not be as much as that because it depends on how much work. It certainly would not be any more because I would confirm with them if I needed to spend more than two days a month. Bear in mind they said they had a whole list of other clients, including some in the aviation field. Because they were new, as I thought, and because they were just starting out in business, as I thought, I was quite prepared to say to them, and did so in the course of the exchanges, it might not be £24,000, it might be considerably less.

  Q296  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Then the conversation moved to a different kind of way in which you could seek to exercise influence, for example on the civil servants in the Bill team.

  Lord Snape: It was a general conversation about the influence civil servants have on legislation.

  Baroness Manningham-Buller: Where are you?

  Lord Irvine of Lairg: I am at page 18.

  Baroness Manningham-Buller: At the bottom?

  Q297  Lord Irvine of Lairg: You say that you were asked, half way down, "Woman: Is it worth speaking to the Bill team at all, do you think? PS: What, the civil servants? Woman: Yeah. PS: Yes, it is if you know anybody. I mean— Woman: Well no, unfortunately I don't. PS: I'm not sure whether I do. I mean, I'd have to use some of my contacts to find out who they are." Then you go on to say, "I mean, they are ... more important than the politicians in my experience" and then you say, "If you can persuade them, then you know you are halfway there". Again, it is obvious that you do not think there will be anything inappropriate in seeking to persuade the Bill team or particular members of it of the merit of this amendment because then you would be halfway there.

  Lord Snape: I did not think there was anything inappropriate in bouncing an idea, the thought of which attracted me, off civil servants, no.

  Q298  Lord Irvine of Lairg: But you would make it plain to the civil servants that the idea appealed to you and has merit which they should consider with a view to bringing to their Minister?

  Lord Snape: Indeed.

  Q299  Baroness Manningham-Buller: Earlier on that page, Lord Snape, after you had been discussing the time it might take you and what you might charge, you—

  Lord Snape: This is page 19?

8   Comment by the witness: please see references in the Hansard transcript to MJA's clients: Back

9   Comment by the witness: please see footnote to Q282. Back

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