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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320-324)

Lord Snape

10 MARCH 2009

  Q320  Chairman: Can I ask another general question. Leaving all the technicalities of the agreement aside, and you have had time to reflect, do you think the purpose and the tenor of your conversation with MJA could be regarded as honourable?

  Lord Snape: I was trying to be friendly to attractive young people who I thought were just starting up in business. Again, my Lord Chairman, I would just ask you to judge me on what I have done, not what the Sunday Times implies that I would have done. The fact is I have never done anything improper. In six years in the Army, as a company chairman, as a railway guard, as a Member of Parliament in the other House, or a member of your Lordship's House, I have never, ever been accused of any impropriety. I never will again, in fact, because I shall give all this lot up as soon as my contracts expire because I am not ever going through this again. I have never done anything to breach— This is possibly the only country in the world that an ex-railway guard can end up in the House of Lords. It is something that the Sunday Times and some of the other press do not much like. Having attacked everybody in this country from the Royal Family down, we are the next target. I respectfully ask the Committee to bear in mind that this was a bona fide conversation only from one person's point of view, and that was mine. They were determined to include as many Members of your Lordship's House in this scam as they possibly could. I cast no reflections on anybody you have interviewed or have yet to interview, but they could not have written that story on the basis of the interview they did with me because that story indicated that I was corrupt and willing to take money to table an amendment. That is not true and I bitterly resent the imputation behind it, which is why I have already been involved elsewhere in trying to disprove that.

  Q321  Lord Dholakia: I have no difficulty in accepting what you just said, but can I ask you in terms of the Code and the standards that have been laid down in that particular document, do you think that your conversation in any particular way could have been construed as being disreputable to this particular House of Lords?

  Lord Snape: I sincerely hope not. Again, my Lord, I ask you to reflect this was an hour long casual conversation, and of course there was some business, some various other parts. I was trying to put them at ease. Remember, I have not actually been accused of doing anything, the accusation is that I might have done something. I just ask you and your colleagues to reflect I might also have done something else. On reflection, I might have looked and thought that I was breaching 4(c) if I had gone ahead in the way that the inference can be drawn from the transcript. On the other hand, I hope the Committee will concede that there are some contradictions in the Code where it says on the one hand in paragraph 4 and then on the other in paragraph 18. I am not seeking to hide behind those contradictions, indeed had the Registrar said, "Don't touch this with a bargepole", I would not have done so. Even if he had said, "You can go ahead", I might well have reflected with the benefit of hindsight that I should not go ahead, as I did not go ahead with those earlier amendments to which I have already referred. This is a judgment, my Lord Chairman, that you and your colleagues have to make. I hope I will be judged fairly on what I have said today and on my own record because I would never do anything to bring this House into disrepute, although I appreciate from what his Lordship just said that there are certain inferences that could fairly be drawn from that conversation. I would not have gone through with them without the advice of the Registrar and even then I might well have looked again at the Code. This was a casual conversation. I do not complain about entrapment, that is the way the press behave these days and we all accept that, but what I do complain about is deliberate distortion. I finish on this, my Lord Chairman, because I do not want to make speeches to your Committee. Even when I rang Mr Gillard and gave him a statement, which he reproduces, even then he took out two words and used them falsely in the first report in the Sunday Times. When I said words to the effect that I was interested in a blanket amendment and I promised the fake PR company, he took those two words out, "interested" and "promised" and put them deliberately in a different place and in a completely different context. That is how determined the Sunday Times were to get as many Members of this House smeared with this particular brush. They would never have dared print that story on the basis of the interview they had with me.13

13  Comment by the witness: my statement dated 23 January 2009 read out to Mr Gillard stated "I said that under the rules of the House I was unable to initiate any legislation on behalf of an individual or company. However, I did state that such an exemption, perhaps time limited for all new start up businesses may be beneficial given the current economic circumstances and undertook to investigate further". The Sunday Times transcript records the latter sentence as "that such an exemption perhaps time limited for all new start up businesses may be beneficial in the current economic circumstances and undertook to investigate such a possibility further". However the Sunday Times article of 25 January 2009 states "However, he said he did think the reporters' proposed exemption might be `beneficial' and undertook to `investigate' further".

  Q322  Chairman: Any other questions? If not, can I say thank you very much indeed for your time. I am sorry it has been rather difficult with your eyes. We will be sending you a transcript which you can correct but not change. Again, many thanks.

  Lord Snape: Thank you.

  Lord Dholakia: You did mention about one of the discrepancies which may have an impact in terms of the transcript from the Sunday Times. Would it be helpful—

  Baroness Manningham-Buller: We noticed that one going through.

  Q323  Lord Dholakia: Yes, we did. Would it be helpful for you to supply us with any relevant discrepancies you think are there?

  Lord Snape: I have done that, my Lord.

  Q324  Chairman: They are all in those letters.

  Lord Snape: They are in some of the letters that I have sent to the Lord Chairman.

  Lord Dholakia: Now I remember, yes.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed.

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