Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witness (Question 80-99)



  80. With you providing, at least in the exchange of letters, services as executive chairman?
  (Mr Robinson) I cannot hear what you are saying.

  81. With you, as shown by the exchange of letters, expected to be executive chairman of Lock?
  (Mr Robinson) Yes, that would have been assumed. Whether it was implemented, I do not know, but I do not—In no way do I want to say that I was not effectively in charge of Lock. I was. I remember speaking to Kevin Maxwell and saying, "God, you've landed me with something up here in L.S. Lowry country, all the little red rows of houses", I remember it significantly. Sami gave his description, and he was my managing director at this time. We went up at 5 o'clock in the morning up there. Of course I did the work, of course it was for Lock and of course we were looking for the management contract to be paid for, there is no question about that. What you are trying to do, which is impossible, in my opinion, is to take all of that activity we did there and say, "Geoffrey lied, because he was paid as non-executive director of Hollis." It is just not right.

  82. Just a simple question, if I may. Do you accept that there was an agreement and an invoice for remuneration due for the work with Lock as a subsidiary of Hollis?
  (Mr Robinson) With Lock, yes, absolutely. That Lock was a subsidiary of Hollis is not in dispute. What is in dispute is whether I did anything for Hollis as a company, as a non-executive chairman, and the answer to that is no, of course I did it for Lock. That is what the argument was about.

  83. In that case, can I ask you to re-read aloud the words on the invoice that you issued on 24th October? What is the fee for?
  (Mr Robinson) I will read it out loud for you, certainly, and you are entitled to ask that: "Fee for Management Service provided to Hollis Industries plc as agreed". But (a), you know, it is not my work. You have to say what were the services? Let us go into it. What was the service? I think that is a fair question, is it not? What was the service to Hollis? Let us go into it. What document do you have? Is there anywhere in existence a document that says "Geoffrey's service is giving advice to Bob Maxwell about how he should handle Hollis Industries because of the problems they had"? Is there anything other than what you have there, which shows that that is technically correct? But the substance of that, showing what the services were for and how they are provided, is completely separate from, and unreconcilable with, any idea that I was seeking remuneration as deputy chairman, non-executive chairman, of Hollis. There is no link. You are trying to make one. I know you are trying, you are trying very hard, but there is not one.

  84. I am not trying to do that in any way.
  (Mr Robinson) You are, because it is one of the findings of the Commissioner which I think is wrong. That one seems to me to be dead wrong. We can argue about the others, and perhaps we should get onto those soon.

  85. Can I turn to 1998 where, on 30th June, your answer to a question from the Chairman of this Committee was the word "No." The question was, "Did you expect to receive any benefit of any kind in respect of your chairmanship of the company?"
  (Mr Robinson) My chairmanship, absolutely none. Can you not see that it has got nothing to do with my chairmanship, it has got everything to do with working with Lock. I cannot understand why this is so difficult. Of course none for my chairmanship. You might just as well have asked me to do it. I have always done things if people have asked me to do them, if I think they are good things. Of course none. That is precisely the point I made to the Commissioner: as chairman, none, of course none.

  86. Did it occur to you to mention that you had put in an invoice for £200,000 to Hollis Industries?
  (Mr Robinson) Did it occur to me what?

  87. In answering the Chairman's letter, or in evidence to this Committee, or in exchanges with the then Commissioner, did it occur to you to mention that you had put in an invoice in 1990 for £200,000 as a fee for management service provided, as you put it, to Hollis Industries as agreed?
  (Mr Robinson) Are you referring there to my reply to Sir Gordon Downey? Is that the period?

  88. To the Chairman of this Committee.
  (Mr Robinson) What is the date of this? I was wondering about the date precisely.

  89. The date I gave before. In answer to the Chairman, your letter was dated 30th June.
  (Mr Robinson) 1998?

  90. Your appearance before the Committee—
  (Mr Robinson) 1998?

  91.—and your exchanges with the Commissioner are a matter of record.
  (Mr Robinson) No, I had forgotten entirely about the whole matter of the contract, and, as I have said before and it bears repeating, so had Sami as managing director at the time. It happened, and I will tell you exactly how it happened when we had to go over this because of the DTI inquiry. I phoned up Sami in Mr Roberts QC's office. I did this with the total openness that I have adopted throughout this. I put up my notebook, I said, "Hang on, there is talk of £200,000 here." So I phoned up Sami, my managing director, who is a an excellent man, who also did not immediately recollect this, as I did not at the time. He said this was about a management contract for £200,000. He said we did not have one. Then he started to recollect, and then he said, "Well, we did all that work for Lock," he said, "but we never got paid." That was his recollection of it, my having prompted him; whereas I had nobody to prompt me. I had completely forgotten it, completely forgotten it.

  92. One last question, if I may. If someone were to take me on as a director and to use my company to provide services to their business, and they said they will pay me a certain sum a year, but by the way they are not going to pay me for five years, they will pay me in arrears, do you think that I ought to declare that during those five years, or do you think I should wait until I had actually seen the money?
  (Mr Robinson) I did think about that, but the arrangement I had with Mr Maxwell—and this was right from the very beginning—

  93. Could you answer my question first and then say other things?
  (Mr Robinson) No, I think the answer is certainly no with Mr Maxwell.

  94. You would not have declared it as money received?
  (Mr Robinson) Not with Mr Maxwell, for obvious reasons.

  95. Leaving aside Mr Maxwell—
  (Mr Robinson) I was dealing only with Mr Maxwell.

  96. Leaving the question of Mr Maxwell aside, if I were to be taken on to do a job, and the pay was going to come in arrears—say, a year in arrears—do you think I have taken on a remunerated directorship or employment during the time I am doing the work, or only when the money gets paid?
  (Mr Robinson) There was no agreement for remuneration, so your assumption is wrong. There was none. I have made that clear several times. There was none. The approach was, let us see how it goes; if it goes well, we will work it out. That may not be the way everybody operates in life. I have done many things unlike many others. The answer to your question is, if you are dealing with—Normally speaking, one would try to get an agreed pattern of remuneration in advance. I was not interested in that. I was trying to do good by the two companies which I took on, which were Central and Sheerwood. Time passes very quickly, and there was no discussion between me and him on remuneration for that until—and this is quite important—the very end when TransTec could not get anything out of the management contract. I said, "Okay, well, at least the—" It would have been both to me anyway; as I said, one down one to go. So the answer to that is that unless you have got a clearly agreed contract in advance which says what you are going to be paid, you should not count on being paid, and in the case of Mr Maxwell, which was my case, certainly not. Both of those things applied in this instance.

  97. So if we just go back to Annex O, you are saying the £200,000— First of all, you say this invoice is one you raised after the discussion with Kevin Maxwell to obtain money?
  (Mr Robinson) Yes.

  98. Then you say that although you wrote the words, or typed the words, or had typed, "Fee for Management Service provided to Hollis Industries plc as agreed", you are saying there was not an agreement?
  (Mr Robinson) No.

  99. You are saying it was not for Hollis Industries?
  (Mr Robinson) There was an agreement between us, subject to the overriding approval of Mr Maxwell, of course there was, but it was always subject to his overriding approval. That is not brought out, and that is where it came unstuck.

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