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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 300-319)

Lord Snape

10 MARCH 2009

  Q300  Baroness Manningham-Buller: I am back on the top of page 18 before the bit that Lord Irvine was talking about on civil servants.

  Lord Snape: Yes.

  Q301  Baroness Manningham-Buller: The Sunday Times journalist says, "In this case it is basically just to get this amendment" and you say, "Right, right. Man: Favourably for our client. PS: Yes, sure. I couldn't give any guarantees for obvious reasons." The next bit is, "I'll find out and I'll sort of talk to [people] ..." and so on. So you knew that they were being very clear to you exactly what they wanted for the money and the time that was being discussed on the previous page.

  Lord Snape: They came back to this particular point at that stage after we had been discussing various other things. I did say I could not give any guarantees for obvious reasons because I outlined to them that even the blanket amendments were subject to approval elsewhere. Again, my second sentence, "It appears to me an eminently sensible thing". I cannot repeat too often, my Lord Chairman, to you and your Committee that I thought so then and I think so now.

  Chairman: Shall we carry on with page 19?

  Q302  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Let us go to page 19 and there you raise the possibility of approaching John Healey's PPS who would, you said, be a reasonably junior MP. You pick that up about a third of the way down.

  Lord Snape: Yes.

  Q303  Lord Irvine of Lairg: So, again—

  Lord Snape: I am sorry, which page are we on again?

  Q304  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Do ask me to point you to the relevant page if I have not done so.

  Lord Snape: You probably did.

  Q305  Lord Irvine of Lairg: It is page 19.

  Lord Snape: Thank you.

  Q306  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Just a third of the way down, "I don't again off the top of my head know who John Healey's parliamentary private secretary is, but he or she would be a reasonably junior Minister".

  Lord Snape: "Junior MP".

  Q307  Lord Irvine of Lairg: MP, yes, forgive me. Then you explain, "That's normally the way to the civil servants and I'll say, look, you know, this is what I want to do. It's for a client I'm working for."

  Lord Snape: The client being MJA Consultancy.

  Q308  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Yes.

  Lord Snape: If I got the go-ahead I would have declared an interest to the civil servant. I would not have said, "Look, I've had this bright idea, it's all mine", I would have said to that civil servant that I have a consultancy with a company which has a client who is interested in this and I think it would benefit business generally.

  Lord Irvine of Lairg: My Lord Chairman, with your permission, I am going to leap a few pages.

  Chairman: Does anybody else want to raise anything on any other pages?

  Q309  Lord Irvine of Lairg: I am going to leap a few pages and go to page 26. There was a discussion of them, that is to say the lobbying company, giving you a draft of some proposed amendments.

  Lord Snape: Yes.

  Q310  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Down at the foot of the page, "..I just assumed I would get a parliamentary draftsman to do, to actually draw up, because I mean it is quite a specific task isn't it? The whole thing. PS: It is, yeah, yeah. Man: And then we could give you the draft and then you could give it to—" and you say "Whoever".

  Lord Snape: Yes.

  Q311  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Then at page 27 you say you would circulate it to the appropriate people, "So, if you, you know, if you do that, and let me have a copy of it, then obviously I'll circulate it to those people I think might be sympathetic, people on the committee initially, but I'll talk first to the Minister's PPS, I'll find out who it is ..." and you say, "if it's the wrong generation sort of thing". Pausing there, what you are saying you are happy to do is to circulate the amendment to the appropriate people.

  Lord Snape: That would be one of the alternatives that I would look at.

  Q312  Lord Irvine of Lairg: There might be other ways but this was one of the things that you were willing to do.

  Lord Snape: Yes.

  Q313  Lord Irvine of Lairg: Then we come to the part we jumped ahead to some time ago, in the middle of the page, "I mean what I want from you as far as we're concerned is if you would summarise this conversation and our agreement in a letter to me, formally requesting me to act as a consultant on the lines financially that we have just agreed." Would you agree, Lord Snape, that bears all the marks of a conversation where you have concluded an agreement?

  Lord Snape: Certainly the word "agreement" was not a wise one to have used in those circumstances, but there is nowhere in that transcript that you could base an agreement on in the way I have obviously misused the word. The fact is I wanted something in writing. I was rather anxious to get away by this time because they had been there quite a long time, so my language was perhaps a lot less specific than it should have been. The fact was I just wanted them to set out in writing their proposals for me to act as a consultant so I could bid them goodbye and get on with my next business.

  Q314  Lord Irvine of Lairg: If we go forward to your letter to the Registrar of 11 February, and we come to the summary on page 5 under the heading "summary"—

  Lord Snape: Yes, it is on page 4.

  Q315  Lord Irvine of Lairg: "In summary, I am very conscious of the rules of the House, and have always abided by them. The meeting with MJA discussed tentative proposals for a consultancy, which proposals were never in fact received"[10]. If these were tentative proposals, why did you say that you felt you had arrived at an agreement?

  Lord Snape: I thought we had agreed specifically on the fees that I charge, which were my normal consultancy fees to any of my clients. That was all I meant. I did not mean anything particularly specific as far as my duties on behalf of the company were concerned.

  Q316  Lord Irvine of Lairg: So you are saying you thought it was purely an agreement as to money and not an agreement as to the things you would do?

  Lord Snape: I thought they had agreed with my scale of charges and I wanted them to set out in writing for me to formally sign, if I chose to do so, exactly what they wanted me to do.[11]

  Q317  Lord Irvine of Lairg: In fairness to you, you did say at page 27, "I mean what I want from you as far as we're concerned is if you would summarise this conversation and our agreement in a letter to me, formally requesting me to act as a consultant on the lines financially that we have just agreed."

  Lord Snape: Which were my standard and normal fees. Can I just draw your attention, my Lord Chairman, and the Committee's, to page 26 of this. You said, my Lord Chairman, it is me that is on trial and not the Sunday Times, and I acknowledge that particular fact, but six paragraphs down: "Man: So, have you amended any legislation before on behalf of clients or? PS: I think we are back to the bus business there. I don't think I've got any specific amendments I could think of. I mean, I've certainly amended legislation as an Opposition spokesman", which was a job I did for 12 years, I think, "but not on behalf of clients ..." Again, bearing in mind your strictures, my Lord Chairman, about the Sunday Times not being on trial, I should point out that in their version of the transcript "but not on behalf of clients" is described as "inaudible"[12]. It was not inaudible to the Hansard writers. If I may say to the Committee, I think it is significant that is not the only example I could draw the Committee's attention to, that the Sunday Times decided on this story and wanted to include as many Members of the upper House as possible and were quite prepared to leave out and slant some of the things I said in order to do that. Forgive me, my Lord Chairman, but the Sunday Times' version leaves out that very important line "not on behalf of clients".

  Q318  Chairman: Could I just go back to page 26. When the journalist asked you, "So, have you amended any legislation before on behalf of clients, or?" why did you not suggest that this might be an improper thing to do?

  Lord Snape: Again, it was the tail end of a long—I denied—accurately—amending legislation on behalf of clients. I said earlier that I could not amend legislation on behalf of his client. I thought I had made it quite plain. I did not particularly want to be rude to the people concerned but I had made my position quite plain. Saying "not on behalf of clients" is fairly specific having said I would not do it for them right from the start and I pointed out I never had, although it might have been better if I added the words "and I never will". I think it is apparent from my own conduct that I never have and I never will.

  Q319  Chairman: Can I ask for clarification of one thing on page 28. You make reference to the fact that most people like the ambience of visiting which indicates you have some sort of connection in Parliament. You seem to be making clear to them that they could use your access to Parliament to impress their client. Was that what you meant?

  Lord Snape: I think for a fairly new company just starting up, bringing clients to the House of Lords would be fairly useful from their point of view. If you said that was an improper thing to do then the Refreshment Department in the House of Lords would take a bit of a battering most weeks.

10   Comment by the witness: the next sentence from the Summary section of the letter dated 11 February 2009 states "Had they been, I would have considered their communication and would have taken no steps to advance the matter without seeking the advice of the Registrar of Members' Interests". Back

11   Comment by the witness: see footnote 6. Back

12   Comment by the witness: or that they had considered not to be relevant-further to a letter from the Clerks which said: "The Sunday Times have told the Sub-Committee that the transcript is not complete because they have not included some material that was inaudible or that they considered to be not relevant". Back

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