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 establishedas confirmed
by the Charity Commission following its inquirywas 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
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,
21 February 2001