Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Sixth Report


Memorandum submitted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

Complaints against Mr Roy Beggs MP

The Complaints

1.    I have received complaints against Mr Roy Beggs, Member for Antrim East, from Councillor John Anderson of Larne, County Antrim; Mr David Gordon, Senior Reporter on the Newtownabbey Times; and Mr David Morrison of Belfast.

a)    Complaint by Councillor John Anderson

2.    In his letter, dated 6 February 2001 (Annex A), Councillor Anderson alleged that—

    (i)  Mr Beggs was the owner of, and the holder of licence for, a landfill site at Ballyrickard Road, Larne

    (ii)  "Neither the site nor any income derived from it" were registered in the Register of Members' Interests

    (iii)  Ratepayers had suggested "that Mr Beggs, possibly together with other individuals" had "undeclared property interests, possibly in the Inver area of Larne".

3.    Councillor Anderson's letter also contained a number of other allegations, some relating to the landfill site owned by Mr Beggs, which involved Mr Beggs's role as a local councillor.

4.    On 7 February 2001 (Annex B), I wrote to Councillor Anderson explaining that my remit did not extend to investigating a Member of Parliament's actions in his capacity as a local councillor. I also asked Councillor Anderson to provide me with any evidence to support his statements that Mr Beggs had failed to register a landfill site at Ballyrickard Farm, Larne, together with any income derived from it, or other property interests in the Inver area of Larne.

5.    Councillor Anderson wrote to me again on 9 February 2001 (Annex C), stating that he was enclosing a copy of the relevant landfill site licence. In fact the document attached to his letter was an extract from Larne Borough Council's register of landfill sites. The entry relating to Mr Beggs read as follows:

Licence Number
Name and Address of Licence Holder
Address of Site
Date Licence Issued
Waste Types
Mr J R Beggs

c/o 41 Station Road


BT40 2AA*

Ballyrickard Road


15/04/94 Category A

(inert waste)

* A handwritten note to the address read "Constituency Office".

Councillor Anderson added that he would supply the further information I had requested later.

6.    I wrote to Mr Beggs on 12 February 2001 (Annex D), informing him of the complaint against him by Councillor Anderson and asking him for details concerning the ownership of the landfill site at Ballyrickard Road; whether he derived, or expected to derive, any income from it; and whether he was aware of any other interests which required registration by him. I also asked Mr Beggs to supply me with any other relevant information concerning the matters raised by Councillor Anderson which were within my remit.

7.    Mr Beggs replied on 23 February, as follows (Annex E):

    —   that he confirmed that he owned land at Ballyrickard Road

    —   that the land was acquired on 30 December 1984

    —   that he had personally incurred "all expenses relating to planning approval" in respect of the landfill site

    —   that he had "never received and [did] not expect to receive income from the site"

    —   that neither he nor any member of his family had received any "cash or benefit in lieu of payment for the use of the site by the registered agent/deliverer of waste to the site"

    —   that the registered agent dealt with "all landfill tax matters related to the site"

    —   that he was "unaware of any interests which require[d] registration".

8.    Mr Beggs added, however, that since 1989 he had been, with a Mr Thomas Topping, "a part-owner of land, property and equipment at Inver", namely "Bleachers, Dyers, Finishers, Inver Road, Larne." Mr Beggs explained that he had "contributed £20,000 of the purchase price" but neither he nor Mr Topping had "received [any] payment or benefit of any kind."

9.    Mr Beggs concluded:

"In the event that the situation changes and I am still a Member of Parliament with income from either the landfill site or the Inver factory site, I will be pleased to notify your office."

b)    Complaint by Mr David Gordon

10.  Mr Gordon wrote to me on 16 February 2001 (Annex F), having seen reports in the media that I was investigating a complaint against Mr Beggs alleging non-registration by him of an interest in a landfill site at Ballyrickard Road, Larne and that Mr Beggs had denied having any pecuniary interest in the site. Mr Gordon posed the following questions:

    —   if Mr Beggs had no financial involvement in the site, who was responsible for the payment of landfill tax on it?

    —   why, if Mr Beggs had no financial stake in it, was the site licenced in his name?

    —   did the landfill operation represent a hobby for Mr Beggs or "a generous donation to the businessman who operate[d] it"?

11.  In addition, Mr Gordon raised the question of the ownership of the Ballyrickard Road site and he pointed to the House of Commons rule requiring the registration of land or property of substantial value.[1]

12.  Mr Gordon wrote to me again on 22 February 2001 (Annex G) to say that the following further information had come to light:

    —   that Mr Beggs had confirmed in a newspaper article[2] that he owned the site at Ballyrickard Road and that, having purchased the land in 1984, he subsequently (in l989) obtained planning permission for an agricultural improvement scheme involving inert waste tipping[3]

    —   that, some months before Mr Beggs acquired the land, planning permission for the erection of a bungalow had been granted to the previous owner

    —   that the land at Ballyrickard Lane was not part of Mr Beggs's farm, nor, in Mr Gordon's view, could it be described as farmland, "given the extensive landfill waste operation based within it"

    —   that the landfill operation was managed by the firm DJ McKee and Sons[4]

    —   that HM Customs and Excise had confirmed that, as the site licence-holder,[5] Mr Beggs was legally responsible for the landfill tax payments

    —   that Mr Beggs had indicated that he intended to meet the clean-up costs arising from a breach of the waste control regulations at the site.[6]

13.  Mr Gordon's letter concluded:

"So, according to Mr Beggs's account, he has been allowing a firm to tip waste on his land, for profit, over a number of years at no charge, while apparently shouldering the burden of tax payments and other responsibilities himself. This is a very generous act of benevolence on his behalf.

Leaving aside any questions about his account, there is also the question of indirect pecuniary benefit to Mr Beggs. In planning terms, the land filling is an agricultural improvement scheme aimed at improving the land and thereby enhancing its value. Mr Beggs, as the landowner, is therefore the ultimate beneficiary from the landfill operation.

Even at this level, should he not have declared the waste operation to Parliament?"

14.  I received a further letter from Mr Gordon dated 1 March 2001 (Annex H) with which he enclosed:[7]

    —   newspaper cuttings in which Mr Beggs confirmed his ownership of the landfill site at Ballyrickard Road and Customs and Excise confirmed that landfill licence holders are legally responsible for landfill tax payments

    —   documentation supplied by Mr Leslie Hood, who lived next to the Ballyrickard Road landfill site for a number of years

    —   a letter from the planning service confirming that permission had been granted, shortly before Mr Beggs acquired the site, for a farm bungalow development on land next to Mr Hood's home

    —   a map of the dump site relating to Mr Beggs's successful application in 1989 for permission to carry out an infilling agricultural improvement scheme.

c)    Complaint by Mr David Morrison

15.  Mr Morrison wrote to me on 27 February 2001 (Annex I). The essence of his complaint was:

    —   that, as the landfill site licence-holder, and therefore the person responsible for the landfill tax payments,[8] Mr Beggs had, on 27 March 2000, voted in the House of Commons on a Motion relating to landfill tax "without declaring his own interest in the issue"

    —   that Mr Beggs had "made representations in Parliament on landfill tax and other landfill issues on a number of occasions", including by means of a written question on 7 November 1995 and speeches in debates on 27 March 1996 and 26 February 1998.

Mr Beggs's Response to the Complaints

16.  Mr Beggs came to see me on 28 February 2001 to provide me with more details about his land and property holdings and, more particularly, the sites at Ballyrickard Road and Inver Road. Afterwards, I sent to Mr Beggs for checking a copy of my draft file note of our meeting (Annex J) and I also wrote to Mr Beggs on 1 March 2001 (Annex K) with some further questions on matters which appeared to me to remain outstanding. Mr Beggs replied on 8 March (Annex L) both with comments on the draft file note and answers to my further questions.

17.  The information provided to me by Mr Beggs at our meeting and in his subsequent letter was as follows.

     Mr Beggs's Agricultural Holdings

18.  Mr Beggs's home farm consists of 25 acres surrounding his home address. He also owns 22½ acres on a separate site at Carnleaballyclare which he inherited from his father in 1987. Thus, taking into account the Ballyrickard Road site (13¼ acres), Mr Beggs owns three discrete tracts of land, totalling a little over 60 acres.

     The Ballyrickard Road Site

19.  —    Mr Beggs acquired the Ballyrickard Road site, which is about three miles from his home farm, in December 1984. At the time the site was purchased by Mr Beggs it carried planning permission for the erection of a farm bungalow which Mr Beggs did not seek to renew

    —   in August 1989 Mr Beggs embarked on a scheme to fill the lower part of the site after earlier attempts to drain it had proved unsuccessful

    —   on 15 April 1994 Mr Beggs was granted a waste-disposal licence for the site and he appointed Mr D J McKee to operate the site as his agent

    —   Mr Beggs has no formal contract with Mr McKee, but, according to an "understanding" between them, Mr McKee would landfill the site, for which purpose he would have sole access, whilst, with the exception of one field fenced off for silage, Mr Beggs would graze animals on the site as he saw fit

    —   Mr Beggs pays D J McKee and Sons for any work they undertake as contractors on the site (Mr Beggs provided examples of recent bills)

    —   there is no time-scale for completing the filling of the site; in approximately 12 years about _ of the site had been covered by landfill material and, at that rate, land filling "may not be completed for [Mr Beggs's] benefit in [his] lifetime"

    —   Mr Beggs's understanding was that when tipping was complete the site would be left usable for grassing for the purposes of either cutting or grazing, but that it would not be "suitable for development"

    —   it was agreed from the start that Mr McKee would pay the landfill tax due on the site

    —   on 11 March 2001 Mr Beggs wrote to Larne Borough Council requesting them to transfer to D M McKee and Sons the waste-disposal licence in respect of the Ballyrickard Road site.

20.  At our meeting I raised with Mr Beggs another issue which had been drawn to my attention by Councillor Anderson, namely that tipping by someone other than the authorised operator had taken place at the Ballyrickard Road site. Mr Beggs told me that, having checked the position, he had established that Mr McKee had arranged for the local authority, Larne Borough Council, to dump material on the site. He had also discovered that amongst the tippings were materials not suited to the site and not covered by the waste-disposal licence. As soon as Mr Beggs became aware of the breach of the tipping licence he informed the Environmental Health Officer and asked him to take the necessary steps to rectify the position. The Environmental Health Officer had arranged for the Council to sort and remove the unauthorised materials, the costs being shared between Mr McKee and the local authority.

21.  Mr Beggs's account on this point was broadly confirmed by Mr M Crum, Director of Environmental Services at Larne Borough Council, in letters dated 7 and 8 March 2001 (Annexes M and N). Mr Crum's letters contained, however, the following information additional to, or at variance with, Mr Beggs's description of events:

    —   Mr McKee had agreed to allow the Council to tip on the site from March 2000

    —   the Council deposited 3,150 tonnes of waste on the site in the period between March and December 2000 for which they paid Mr McKee £14,175 (£7,875 plus £6,300 landfill tax).[9]

    —   the unauthorised material had now been removed

    —   Councillor John Anderson reported the unauthorised tipping, on 25 January 2001.

22.  Mr Beggs provided me with copies of the following documents[10] relating to the site at Ballyrickard Road:

—   planning permission for the landfill site, dated 28 March 1990

—   waste disposal sites, application for consent dated 1 September 1993

—   waste disposal licence, dated 15 April 1994

—   landfill register, containing landfill site operators, site addresses and landfill tax registration numbers as at 1 April 1999.

     The Property at Inver Road

23.  —   The property at Inver Road, Larne was, at the time of its purchase, the business premises of a bleachers, dyers and finishers employing about 40 people

    —   in 1989 the company went into receivership and the property was advertised for sale

    —    concerned about employment in his constituency, Mr Beggs convened a meeting of local businesses to consider the formation of a consortium to buy the business

    —   only one businessman, Mr Thomas Topping, was willing to proceed; he put up £100,000 to purchase the property and Mr Beggs agreed to contribute £20,000

    —   the successor company, which now specialised in the manufacture of Arab headgear, had not succeeded as they had hoped, but employment levels had been maintained

    —   no rent was being charged to the business and no interest had been paid on the capital invested in the site until, a few months previously, Mr Topping had asked for interest to be paid in respect of a loan he had made to the business

    —   there was no written agreement between Mr Beggs and Mr Topping over their investment in the Inver Road property, although they had an "understanding" that Mr Beggs "would be honour bound to take responsibility" for one sixth of any debts and that, conversely, he would receive one sixth of any profit which might be realised in future; there was also an "understanding" with the current occupants of the premises that they could buy back the property whenever they wished

    —   a previous planning permission for development on the site (which is in a development zone) had expired but Mr Topping had informed Mr Beggs that he had instructed his architect to submit a fresh application.

24.  Mr Beggs explained that he had not thought it necessary to register an interest in the Inver Road property "because I did not consider that my £20,000 part of the £120,000 [purchase price] was substantial and because I received no income of any kind." Mr Beggs added : "No payment or benefit has been received because the business has been unable to pay anything and has been supported by Mr Topping personally."[11]

25.  Finally, Mr Beggs said that he did not believe he had "been involved in any Parliamentary proceeding which relates to issues which might be relevant to the property at Inver Road, Larne during the period." And Mr Beggs concluded, in his letter of 8 March:

    '"If I have acted incorrectly then I will be guided as to how I can put things right and accept the consequences.

    I have no other interests which should be registered."

26.  Mr Beggs came to see me again on 14 March (file note, Annex O) to check that there was no further information which I required in order to complete my investigation. He brought with him a letter from HM Customs and Excise (Annex P) which confirmed that he was still the licence-holder for the Ballyrickard Road site and was therefore responsible for the payment of any landfill tax. However, Customs and Excise acknowledged that "Perhaps we (they) did not make it fully clear at the time that this arrangement should have been adopted only as a temporary solution to the situation we (they) found ourselves in." Mr Beggs told me that his request to have the licence transferred to Mr McKee (about which he had informed me in his letter of 8 March) would be considered by the relevant committee of Larne Borough Council on 26 March, before going to the full Council on 2 April.

27.  I asked Mr Beggs about the development potential of the Inver Road site. Mr Beggs told me that the total area of the site was 7½ acres, although 3 acres of that were situated alongside a river and therefore unlikely to be suitable for development. The rest of the site, some 4½ acres, was within a development zone. Mr Topping's planning application in relation to the site was likely to be for residential development. The next door site had already been developed for residential use. I put it to Mr Beggs that, according to his "understanding" with Mr Topping, the latter could at any time close down the business using the Inver Road premises by calling in the debts which he was guaranteeing. Mr Beggs said that he supposed this was the case, although Mr Topping's only motive was to help the business.

Other Inquiries

28.  I wrote on 9 March 2001 to Mr David Carroll, the Divisional Planning Manager of the Northern Ireland Planning Service at Ballymena, County Antrim, to ask for information about any past, current or prospective planning permissions in relation to the sites at Ballyrickard Road and Inver Road.

29.  In his reply, dated 14 March 2001 (Annex Q), Mr Carroll listed the following details in respect of each site:

Ballyrickard Road

    —   a full application for planning permission for an agricultural improvement scheme, involving filling with inert material, grading with top soil and grassing over, was approved on 6 March 1990;

    —   there was no permission currently in force for the erection of a bungalow;[12]

Inver Road

    —   an application for a housing development was received from Mr Topping on 15 March 1996; outline planning permission was granted on 27 June 1996;

    —   an application for residential development was received from Mr Topping on 5 February 2001; no decision has yet been reached.

Mr Beggs's Register entries

30.  Since 1989[13] the relevant parts of Mr Beggs's Register entries have been as follows:

1989 and 1990
2. Employment or Office Councillor—Larne Borough Council.
8. Land and Property Small farms at Larne and Ballyclare (approximately 60 acres).
1991 and 1992
2. Employment or Office Councillor, Larne Borough Council.
Member of the North Eastern Education and Library Board.
8. Land and Property Small farms at Larne and Ballyclare (approximately 60 acres).
1992 (New Parliament)
2. Employment or Office Councillor, Larne Borough Council.
Member of the North Eastern Education and Library Board.
8. Land and Property Small farms, approximately 60 acres, Co. Antrim.
2. Remunerated employment, office, profession etc Councillor, Larne Borough Council.
Member of the North Eastern Education and Library Board.
8. Land and property Farm, approximately 60 acres, Co. Antrim.
2000 and 2001
2. Remunerated employment, office, profession etc Councillor, Larne Borough Council.
Member of the North Eastern Education and Library Board.
8. Land and Property Farm, approximately 60 acres. Co. Antrim, interests in beef cattle.

Mr Beggs's participation in Parliamentary proceedings relating to landfill or waste disposal

31.  The House of Commons Library provided me with the following information (Annex R) about Mr Beggs's participation in proceedings relevant to the issues of landfill or waste disposal since April 1994 (when the landfill licence for the Ballyrickard Road site was granted to him). The relevant information is summarised below:

Written Questions

14 written questions tabled between February 1995 and the end of 1998 inclusive.

Subject matter:

    —   the advantages of allowing landfill tax receipts to be invested in the recycling infrastructure;

    —   various issues relating to a proposed landfill site at Magheramorne Quarry, Larne, County Antrim;

    —   targets for reducing the amount of controlled waste going to landfill sites;

    —   details of landfill sites in a) Great Britain and b) Northern Ireland where pollution problems have arisen.

Contributions to Debates
DateProceedings Subject of Contribution[14]
27 March 1996Finance Bill, Report Stage the need for supervision of landfill sites to avoid pollution of water courses.

32.  In his letter of 27 February 2001 Mr Morrison stated that Mr Beggs had made a speech on landfill matters in a debate on 26 February 1998. Neither the Library's analysis nor my own check on the relevant volume of Hansard have confirmed that Mr Beggs took part in any relevant debate on that date.


Summary of Complaints

33.  The cumulative thrust of the allegations made against Mr Beggs by the three complainants is as follows:

The Ballyrickard Road Site

(i)  That Mr Beggs owned, and was the licence-holder for, a landfill site at Ballyrickard Road, Larne which he had failed to register as an interest under Category 8 of the Register (Land and Property).

(ii)  That Mr Beggs derived income from the site which he had failed to register under Category 2 of the Register (Remunerated Employment, Office, Profession, etc).

(iii)  That Mr Beggs took part in Parliamentary proceedings, including Divisions, relating to landfill and other matters relating to waste disposal, without making an appropriate declaration of his personal interest in a landfill site.

The Inver Road Site

(iv)  That Mr Beggs had an interest in business premises, and the site on which they stood, at Inver Road, Larne which he had failed to register either under Category 8 of the Register (Land and Property) or Category 9 (Shareholdings).

The Relevant Rules

34.  The relevant rules and Register categories are as follows:


Category 2

Remunerated Employment, Office, Professions, etc: Employment, office trade, profession or vocation (apart from membership of the House or ministerial office) which is remunerated or in which the Member has any pecuniary interest. Membership of Lloyd's should be registered under this Category.

Category 8

Land and Property: Any land or property, other than any home used for the personal residential purposes of the Member or the Member's spouse, which has a substantial value or from which a substantial income is derived. The nature of the property should be indicated.

Category 9

Shareholdings: Interest in shareholdings held by the Member, either personally, or with or on behalf of the Member's spouse or dependent children, in any public or private company or other body which are:

(a)  greater than 1 per cent of the issued share capital of the company or body; or

(b)  less than 1 per cent of the issued share capital but more than £25,000 in nominal value.

 The nature of the company's business in each case should be registered.


Resolution of 22 May 1974:

"In any debate or proceeding of the House or its Committees or transactions or communications which a Member may have with other Members or with Ministers or servants of the Crown, he shall disclose any relevant pecuniary interest or benefit of whatever nature, whether direct or indirect, that he may have had, may have or may be expecting to have."

35.  Since 19 July 1995 the duty to make a declaration of any relevant pecuniary interest has been extended to include the giving of written notices, including Parliamentary questions (by means of placing the symbol [R] on the Order Paper after the Member's name).

a)  The Site at Ballyrickard Road

36.  There is no doubt that the Ballyrickard Road site is physically separated from the land on which Mr Beggs's home farm is situated. Moreover, it was acquired much later than the farm itself (in 1984). Given, however, that Mr Beggs purchased the site as a piece of farmland (it carried planning permission for the erection of a farm bungalow), it was perhaps not unreasonable for him to assume that his interest in the land was adequately registered through the entries he employed throughout the period in question, which referred both to "farms" in the plural and gave the total area he owned, correctly, as 60 acres.

37.  The position changed materially when in 1989 Mr Beggs applied for and obtained[15] permission to carry out an agricultural improvement scheme at the site involving the levelling of the land through infilling. This raises the questions of whether Mr Beggs's interest in the site was now significantly different from what it had been before ( and thus separately and specifically registrable) and whether the interest was of a pecuniary nature.

38.  Although I cannot be certain that my inquiries have established a complete picture of the arrangement between Mr Beggs and Mr McKee in relation to the management and operation of the landfill site, the following elements are clear:

—   Mr Beggs has been since April 1994—and, pending the approval of his application to Larne Borough Council to transfer it to Mr McKee, still is—the holder of the landfill licence in respect of the site;

—   by the same token, Mr Beggs has been legally liable for the landfill tax, although in practice Mr McKee has taken responsibility for paying it;

—   the landfill operation is a commercial venture, with Mr McKee acting as Mr Beggs's agent.

39.  Mr Beggs says that he has neither received, nor expects to receive, any income directly from the landfill site. On the contrary, according to Mr Beggs, he pays Mr McKee for any work his firm undertakes as a contractor on the site. Mr Beggs also denies receiving payment from Larne Borough Council when Mr McKee allowed them to dump unauthorised materials at the site: the tipping fees had gone to Mr McKee. I have no reason to question Mr Beggs's statement that he has derived no monetary benefit from Mr McKee arising from the landfill activity at the site.

40.  On the other hand, the context in which Mr Beggs acquired the landfill licence is important. The landfill operation has its origin in the planning permission obtained by Mr Beggs in 1990 for the levelling and grassing over of the land. This project was categorised as an agricultural improvement scheme, with the obvious implication that, when it was completed, Mr Beggs would be left with a piece of land with significantly enhanced agricultural application and hence higher value. In addition, the levelling of the land, which will be the end product of the landfill process, will increase the potential for the development of the site (although no such permission has currently been applied for).

41.  Taking all these factors into account, I am of the view that, for Mr Beggs, his ownership of the Ballyrickard Road site is a long term investment, in which the landfill operation plays an integral part. I am also satisfied that Mr Beggs has a sufficiently clear and firm expectation of deriving future benefit from his ownership of the site as to make it registrable under Category 8 (Land and Property), and that this was the case from the point at which Mr Beggs obtained the landfill licence in April 1994.

42.  I do not, however, consider that Mr Beggs ought to have registered the landfill site under Category 2 (Remunerated Employment, Office, Profession etc) since I have received no evidence to contradict Mr Beggs's statement that he derives no income from the operation of the site.

43.  Since, for the reasons I have indicated, Mr Beggs had a registrable interest in the Ballyrickard Road site, it follows that he should have declared that interest in any proceedings in which he took part which related in any way to landfill issues.

44.  According to the information provided by the Library for the period since April 1994 ,[16] Mr Beggs tabled 14 questions and intervened in one debate relevant to landfill matters without making a declaration of his interest. Of the written questions, however, six were tabled before July 1995 when the rule relating to declaration of interests was extended to written notices. Mr Beggs's failure to make a declaration of a relevant interest therefore applied to eight written questions and one debate.

45.  The reference made by one of the complainants, Mr Morrison, to the fact that Mr Beggs had voted on a motion relating to landfill tax is not relevant, since the rules do not require a separate declaration to be made in respect of Divisions. Nor does the information available to me confirm, as claimed by Mr Morrison, that Mr Beggs spoke in a second debate relating to landfill issues in February 1998.

46.  It could be argued that in tabling questions (and to a more limited extent by taking part in a debate) on landfill issues, Mr Beggs was engaged in advocacy in breach of the Houses's Resolution of 6 November 1995, since he had (and still has) a relevant registrable interest. In the light of the views I have already expressed about Mr Beggs's failure both to register and declare an interest in the site and of the difficulty in establishing whether Mr Beggs's interest was sufficiently direct to engage the advocacy rule, I have not thought it necessary to pursue this question further.

b)  The Site at Inver Road

47.  Mr Beggs's account is that he jointly purchased the Inver Road site with Mr Topping in 1989, putting up £20,000 to Mr Topping's £100,000. The site housed a dyers', bleachers' and finishers' business which had gone into receivership.

48.  It became increasingly clear, however, as my inquiry progressed, that Mr Beggs's interest in the Inver Road site was more than simply a share of a factory building, but involved a considerable landholding—some 7½ acres in total. Of this area, 4 acres are both capable of development and situated in a development zone. Indeed, outline planning permission for a housing development on the site was granted in 1996 and the site next door has already been developed.

49.  There is no doubt, in my view, that this is the ultimate purpose of the investment in the site by Mr Beggs and Mr Topping (though there have also been undeniable beneficial effects in maintaining employment at the factory). Mr Topping has applied for planning permission for a residential development, although no decision on it has yet been reached. When Mr Beggs came to see me on 28 February he told me that he expected Mr Topping to make a new application shortly. It subsequently emerged from the Northern Ireland Planning Service that Mr Topping's application had been received on 5 February 2001—some 3 weeks before my first meeting with Mr Beggs.[17]

50.  Mr Beggs initially maintained that he had no interest in the business which operates from the Inver Road site and he added that he had never received any income from it, whether in the form of rent or otherwise. He said that Mr Topping was currently guaranteeing the company's overdraft (which, as Mr Beggs agreed, presumably means that by calling in the debt Mr Topping could, in effect, close the business down whenever he chooses). However, this is difficult to reconcile with Mr Beggs's statement at our meeting on 28 February that he has an "understanding" with Mr Topping whereby Mr Beggs would be "honour bound" to take responsibility for about one sixth of any debt and that in return he would receive one sixth of any profit—unless in saying this Mr Beggs was referring to the site development project as a whole, rather than the business currently located there. This is an unorthodox arrangement in that it appears, if Mr Beggs is to be believed, to have no legal authority. It is unusual to say the least, to enter into a commercial investment worth tens of thousands of pounds on the basis of a gentlemen's agreement.[18]

51.  Be that as it may, Mr Beggs acquired an interest in the site when he put up his £20,000 share of the purchase price. There may be room for argument as to whether this sum constitutes "a substantial value", as specified in the rule relating to Category 8 of the Register (Land and Property). But there can be no doubt, in my view, that the development potential of the site, which has enjoyed outline planning permission since 1996 and is now the subject of a formal application, means that Mr Beggs's interest was sufficiently large to require registration under Category 8. (I do not consider that there was any case for registration under Category 9 (Shareholdings) since Mr Beggs's interest is in the form of an equity stake in the site, not a shareholding).

52.  When I had drafted my memorandum, but prior to coming to any conclusions, I sent a copy to Mr Beggs so that he could provide me with corrections of fact and any comments he might wish to make. On 21st March 2001 Mr Beggs came to see me and provided corrections of fact and some comments on my memorandum. I have considered these and made some corrections of fact and amendments to my draft, in the light of them.


a)  The Ballyrickard Road Site

53.  Mr Beggs has, since 1994 when he acquired a landfill licence for the Ballyrickard Road site and became liable to pay landfill tax on it, had a financial interest in the site. More importantly, he has had, and continues to have, an interest in the site through its potential enhanced agricultural usefulness and the scope it offers for its development, of which the landfill operation is an integral part. This interest should have been registered under Category 8. Mr Beggs has not done so.

Complaint upheld

54.  There is no evidence that Mr Beggs has derived income directly from the landfill operation, so that no question of registration under Category 2 arises.

Complaint not upheld

55.  Since 1994 Mr Beggs has taken part in one debate on landfill issues, without making an appropriate oral declaration of his relevant personal pecuniary interest in the Ballyrickard Road site. He has also tabled eight written questions relating to landfill matters since July 1995, without making an appropriate written declaration of his interest on the Order Paper, as the rules required him to do from that date onwards.

Complaint upheld

b)  The Inver Road Site

56.  It can be argued that, when he contributed £20,000 towards the purchase price of the Inver Road site in 1989, Mr Beggs acquired land or property of "substantial value" which ought therefore to have been registered under Category 8. But any doubt on that question is removed by the significant development potential of the site which is evidenced by the planning permissions previously granted and currently applied for. Taking these factors into account, Mr Beggs's interest in the site was, and is, clearly registrable. Mr Beggs has not registered this interest.

Complaint upheld

57.  Mr Beggs has stated:

"If I have acted incorrectly then I will be guided as to how I can put things right and accept the consequences.

I have no other interests which should have been registered."

21 March 2001  Elizabeth Filkin

1  Subject to the exemptions listed under Category 8 (Land and Property). See paragraph 34. Back

2  Larne Gazette, 21 February 2001. Back

3  Confirmed by an attached copy of the planning application approval document issued by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. Back

4  Confirmed by an attached copy of the Landfill Tax Register as at 1 April 1999. Back

5  Confirmed by a copy of the waste disposal licence issued to Mr Beggs by Larne Borough Council. Back

6  Mr Beggs told me that he has no recollection of ever saying this. Back

7  These documents are not attached to this memorandum. Back

8  As confirmed by Customs and Excise publication "A general guide to landfill tax". (February 2000, Notice LFT1). Back

9  On 21 March 2001 Mr Beggs told me that he had not been informed by Mr McKee or the Council of the commercial tipping arrangement. Back

10  Not attached to this memorandum. Back

11  Through an overdraft facility. Back

12  Confirmed by telephone on 15 March 2001. Back

13  The year in which Mr Beggs acquired his share in the property at Inver Road, Larne. Back

14  An intervention in another Member's speech.  Back

15  Approval was granted in March 1990. Back

16  See paragraph 31. Back

17  On 21 March 2001 Mr Beggs told me that he was not consulted by Mr Topping about the planning application. Back

18  On 21 March 2001 Mr Beggs confirmed that he has never been involved in the business occupying the premises at Inver Road. Back

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