Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Sixth Report

Annex J

File note by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

28 FEBRUARY 2001

Mr Beggs came to see me so that I could clarify details in relation to the complaint made by Councillor Anderson. I explained the investigation process to Mr Beggs and gave him a copy of the leaflet "How to complain about an MP" so that he could see the process in writing.

I said that the complaint concerned whether he had properly registered all his financial interests. Mr Beggs confirmed that he understood the basis of the complaint.

Mr Beggs provided me with the following information. Mr Beggs' Home Farm which surrounds his home address was acquired in the mid-sixties and is 25 acres.

He inherited 22½ acres at Carnleaballyclare from his father in about 1988.

Ballyrickard Road site

Mr Beggs acquired the site at Ballyrickard Road on the 30th December 1984. It is a site of 13 1/4 acres and is about 3 miles from his home farm. The landfill site in question is on part of that site. When Mr Beggs purchased the site it had an outline planning permission for a farm bungalow which had been acquired by the previous owner on the 1st June 1983. Mr Beggs did not seek to renew that planning permission as he had represented the applicant, the previous owner, in seeking that planning permission.

A nearby "neighbour from hell" embarked on a crusade to prevent filling at that time and, Mr Beggs believes, to try to disrupt activities on the site.

On the 30th January 1986, the site was cleared and attempts were made to drain it but it had little run off and this was not successful. On the 24th August 1989, Mr Beggs embarked on a scheme to fill the lower part of the site.

On the 15th April 1994 Mr Beggs was granted a Waste-Disposal Licence for the Ballyrickard Road site. That Licence allowed landfilling with material for which the environmental impact of decomposition is less than those items as listed at 1 on the licence. (Mr Beggs provided me with a copy of the Waste-Disposal Licence).

Mr Beggs appointed Mr McKee as agent. He has no formal contract with Mr McKee, but he has an understanding with Mr McKee that he would landfill, he would have sole access and that one field on the site would be fenced off for silage, otherwise Mr Beggs would graze animals on the site as he saw fit. It was agreed that Mr McKee would pay the landfill tax. (Mr Beggs provided me with a copy of the landfill site operators' site addresses and landfill tax registration numbers which lists D.J McKee & Son and provides their tax number)

Mr McKee has always paid the landfill tax. Mr McKee pays nothing to Mr Beggs and provides him with no benefits. Mr Beggs pays D.J McKee & Son for any work that he undertakes as a contractor on Mr Beggs' land. (Mr Beggs provided me with sight of several bills for such contracting work which he had paid). Mr Beggs has no agreement with Mr McKee on the timescale for filling the site as he fills it as and when he has building or soil waste.

Mr Beggs has never agreed that anyone else should tip on the site, but following my letter and the checks he has made, it has come to light that Mr McKee arranged for the local authority, Larne Borough Council, to dump on the site. Mr Beggs assumes that Mr McKee has been paid by the Borough Council but he does not know whether that is so.

When he made these inquiries he found that the mixture of material was not as it should have been. Mr Beggs informed the local Environmental Health Officer who has arranged for the Borough Council to take action to separate the unsuitable material from the suitable material which has recently been dumped on the site. The sorting of the tipped material has been completed. (It was completed last week Mr Beggs believes)

In addition, seaweed has been deposited on the site and Mr McKee has now removed that.

Mr McKee and the Borough Council have carried the costs of sorting out the unauthorised material. Mr Beggs has not carried any of those costs.

Mr Beggs' understanding is that, when the tipping is complete the site will be left usable for cutting or grazing by Mr Beggs, not that it will be left suitable for development.

There are currently no planning applications in force in relation to the site.

Mr Beggs has no financial involvement in D.J McKee & Son.

Mr Beggs said that he will check through the Library whether he has been involved in any Parliamentary Proceedings in relation to matters related to landfill sites or landfill tax agreements.

Property at Inver Road

Mr Beggs explained that the Bleachers, Dyers and Finishers business on the site at Inver Road is a long-established business which employed about 40 people. It faced difficult times and went into receivership in 1989. The property was advertised for sale.

Mr Beggs was concerned about employment in his constituency and convened a meeting of local businessmen to consider forming a consortium to buy the business. One local businessman, a Mr Topping, was willing to proceed, but no others. As a result Mr Topping put in about £100,000 (Mr Beggs will check this figure) and Mr Beggs put in £20,000. They were hopeful that the company would have a better future, but since 1998 the company has not delivered to their expectations, however employment has been maintained.

No rent is being charged to the business and no interest has been paid on the capital put into the site. In the last few months Mr Topping has asked the business to pay the interest on his share of the capital. No interest has been paid on Mr Beggs' share of the capital.

Mr Beggs' aim for this project is long-term employment on the site and his hope is that the company will succeed and be able to buy back the property. However, the site is in an area zoned for development and this could be the end outcome if the business continues to be insufficiently successful.

There was a planning permission on this site for development, but that has expired. Mr Beggs expects Mr Topping to make a new planning application shortly. Mr Beggs' understanding with Mr Topping is that he would be honour bound to take responsibility for about 1/6 of any debt on this project and that he would receive about 1/6 of any profit which might be realised in future.

Mr Beggs will check the approximate present value of this site.

We discussed the Register requirement to enter property of substantial value not used for the residential use of the Member or his spouse. Mr Beggs said that he was mistaken. He had understood that he did not need to register this property unless he received rent from it. I drew Mr Beggs' attention to the Rule relating land and property under category 8, page 12 of the Guide to the Rules Relating to the Conduct of Members.

Mr Beggs agreed to check with the Library whether he had been involved in any Parliamentary Proceedings which related to issues which might be relevant to the property at Inver Road during the period of time he had been a part-owner of the property.

Mr Beggs was most straight-forward and open about all these matters and agreed to let me have the outstanding information as soon as possible.

I explained to Mr Beggs that he was welcome to consult me at any time, that he was also welcome to write to me and I would ensure that anything that he wrote to me was put to the Committee when I made my report. I explained the process and showed Mr Beggs a copy of a previous report which included the report by the Committee and the Memorandum by me.

I said to Mr Beggs that I would make a note of the information that he had given me during the meeting today and I would send it to him to check and correct if necessary. I explained that when I had written my report for the Committee prior to coming to any conclusions, I would send that to him for him to check the facts and to make any other further comment which he wished at that point.

List of documents provided to me by Mr Beggs —

—   Planning permission for the Ballyrickard Road site dated 28th March 1990

—    Waste Disposal Licence for the Ballyrickard Road site dated 15th April 1994

—   Landfill Site Operators, Site addresses and Landfill Tax Registration numbers as at 1 April 1999

—   Waste disposal sites, application for consent for Ballyrickard Road site dated 1 September 1993


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