Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fourth Report

Annex I

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from The Lord Coe OBE

Thank you for your letter of 14 February and for your time on the telephone yesterday. As I explained when we spoke yesterday, it is necessary for me to explore some of the issues you wish us to address with people in Mr Hague's constituency. But it is not possible for me to visit Richmond until the end of next week.

That said, many of the questions you raise in your letter imply that formal steps were taken to establish a charitable trust. As I explained when we met on 12 February, it was my suggestion that Mr Hague seek to establish a mechanism for donating any monies that organisations may wish to submit to a charity of his choice (perhaps following a speech or article etc) along similar lines of that which I established whilst Member for Falmouth and Camborne. The fact that the trust was never established—as confirmed by the Charity Commission following its inquiry—was not a result of wrong-doing.

The following is a broad outline of what occurred.

Mr Hague's Constituency Secretary, Claire Gibson, undertook to seek advice from legal and accountancy professionals within Mr Hague's constituency about establishing a charitable trust. Those people involved offered to assist on a voluntary basis. This would have been around the end of 1998. Clearly, at this time, the professionals involved had indicated to Miss Gibson that it would be possible to organise a trust for the purposes described. It would seem that they offered to do the necessary work. On this basis, Mr Hague chose a name for the trust and, having sought advice from the Registrar of Members' Interests, Mr Hague's entry was amended.

From my initial inquiries, it would seem that, following several enquiries by Miss Gibson of those from whom advice and assistance had been originally offered, little progress was being made. I think it fair to say that those offering to help were more reluctant to deliver once that offer was accepted.

Other work pressures, and some rather serious family pressures caused Miss Gibson to perhaps not pursue the establishment of the trust as vigorously as she might.

As I have explained in my letter of 13 February, around July last year, it was decided to cease attempts to establish the trust. As you know from the documents I have already provided, the sum of monies received between January 1999 and July 2000 were minimal. Mr Hague does not seek and never has sought payment for any speech, article or appearance. The donations made were voluntarily provided by the organisations involved, or, in the case of the articles listed in my attachment to my letter of 13 February, automatic payments from the publications involved following publication of an article. I should add also that all individual donations involved were below £500. There was no meeting of the professionals who originally offered to assist in establishing the trust. I would appear that the decision was reached between Mr Hague and Miss Gibson.

At that time, this office was informed by Miss Gibson of the difficulties experienced in establishing the trust and it was suggested that Mr Hague's entry in the Register be amended. However, we decided to delay because Miss Gibson remained hopeful that the trust could be established, if only she could receive the professional advice required. Also, in the spirit of over-registering information, we thought it best to leave matters as they stood. With hindsight, Mr Hague's entry should have been amended at that time.

As to the donations from November 2000, you ask in your letter about how decisions were reached regarding which charity should receive the donations direct from the donors involved:

a.  Mr Hague and Miss Gibson selected the St John's Ambulance appeal in his constituency to receive the donation from the North East Chamber of Commerce.

b.  The West Midlands Police Federation wished to make donations to Police Convalescent and Rehabilitation Centres.

c.  Mr Hague and Miss Gibson selected the Friarage Hospital to receive the donation from Findel plc.

As to your request for papers from our files, there is nothing further that I can furnish you with having sent all the papers on our files with my letter of 13 February.

I will explore the details of this issue further when I am in Mr Hague's constituency at the end of next week. But, as I explained at our meeting and again on the telephone yesterday, the issue you wish to investigate relating to Mr Hague is a result of mis-communication between Mr Hague's two offices and I repeat here that no wrong-doing has occurred by Mr Hague or any of his staff.

I will contact you again following my visit to Richmond, North Yorkshire.

21 February 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 21 March 2001