Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards from The Lord Coe OBE
Thank you for sight of your draft report to the Standards
and Privileges Committee. Having read the draft report carefully,
there are two areas that I should like to question, namely, the
length of time that Mr Hague's entry in the Register of Members'
Interests was materially incorrect and the opportunities available
to Mr Hague to amend his entry. These are not points I have addressed
previously, as I have focused my attention on clarifying the efforts
to establish the charitable trust and to confirming that no wrong-doing
has taken place.
As previously disclosed, the decision not to pursue
the establishment of the charitable trust was taken in July 2000.
I believe, therefore, it factually incorrect to conclude that
Mr Hague's entry in the register was inaccurate for over eighteen
months (see paragraph 27 of your report). You also state that
Mr Hague had eight opportunities to check his entry from December
1999 (see paragraphs 10 and 29 of your report). I believe it important
to make a distinction between the opportunities available to Mr
Hague to change his entry once the decision was taken to cease
attempts to establish the trust (around July 2000) and from the
time of the last printed edition of the Register in January 2000).
I believe it would be more correct to say that Mr Hague had four
opportunities to correct his entry following the decision not
to pursue the establishment of the Trust.
That said, before his most recent revised entry (sent
to him on 12 February 2001), Mr Hague only saw one of the four
entries sent to him, namely that sent on 25 July 2000. It was
on sight of this revised entry that Mr Hague asked for his entry
to be amended and the reference to a charitable trust to be removed.
I have enclosed for your attention photocopies of proofs sent
to Mr Hague from and including 25 July, together with photocopies
of Mr Hague's letters to David Doig requesting additions to his
entry. You will see from Mr Hague's manuscript comments that he
made two requests for his entry to be amended to reflect the status
of the charitable trust, on 30 July 2000 and on 4 September 2000.
By way of explanation, I should add that, until now,
it has been the usual practice of this office to only consult
Mr Hague on additions to his entry in the Register of Members'
Interests. Proofs of his entry sent for approval have been checked
by only a member of staff. Clearly, had Mr Hague seen the further
three entries sent to him after 4 September 2000 he would have
been made aware that his instruction to his office staff to amend
his entry had not been executed (as is illustrated by the absence
of Mr Hague's initials on any of the proofs sent subsequent to
that sent him on 25 July).
You make an important point in paragraph 29 of your
report that the process whereby your office sends draft Register
entries to Members for verification is not seen as a mere formality
and I have taken steps to ensure that this omission is not repeated
in future and Mr Hague is given every opportunity to check his
entry in the Register.
I must stress again that the failure not to amend
Mr Hague's entry following his instruction to do so did not arise
from a wilful desire to mislead. I state again that miscommunication
and misunderstanding between his two offices was the cause of
this error but I have, of course, given my sincere apologies to
Mr Hague for this mistake.
The following are factual errors in your draft report
and I should be grateful if you would amend.
1. Page 6, final tieret: delete "July 1999"
and insert "July 2000".
2. Page 9, paragraph 25: delete "July 1999"
and insert "July 2000".
3. Page 10, paragraph 27: delete "for over
eighteen months (from July 1999 to February 2001)" and insert
"for over six months (from July 2000 to February 2001)".
4. Also, in light of my comments above, I should
be grateful if you would reconsider your analysis in paragraphs
10 and 29 of your report. As a decision was taken in July 2000
to cease attempts to establish a charitable trust, it is surely
not an accurate reflection to state that Mr Hague was given eight
opportunities to amend his entry, when in fact he was sent only
four proofs after July 2000.
I should be grateful for your comments on my observations
before you submit your report to the Standards and Privileges
14 March 2001