Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report


The Committee on Standards and Privileges has agreed to the following Report:—


1. We have considered a memorandum from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards relating to the complaint from Mr David Heathcoat-Amory, Member for Wells, against Mr Geoffrey Robinson, Member for Coventry North West. The Commissioner's memorandum and written evidence submitted by Mr Robinson are appended to this Report. We have taken oral evidence from Mr Robinson, the minutes of which are published with this Report.

2. The Commissioner has upheld complaints that —

(i)  Mr Robinson or his beneficial interests had received a payment of £200,000 in respect of management services provided to A M Lock ("Lock"), a subsidiary of Hollis Industries plc ("Hollis"), which was registrable and which he had not registered;

(ii)  in failing to provide full answers to our questions in 1998, Mr Robinson had misled us about the payment of £200,000 shown in the published accounts of Hollis by withholding information which might have led us to reach a different conclusion; and

(iii)  Mr Robinson had additionally misled the Committee by denying that he had agreed or solicited the £200,000 fee.

Mr Robinson strenuously denies all three complaints.

3. Mr Robinson and his solicitor have co-operated fully in allowing these matters to be considered without delay.

4. During 1990, notably between April and June, Mr Robinson negotiated an agreement with the Maxwell interests, who owned Hollis, for the provision by his company, Transfer Technology Ltd ("TransTec"), of management services to Lock in return for a payment to TransTec. The agreement included the provision of his own services as executive chairman of Lock. Mr Robinson was also non-executive chairman of Hollis. He told us he was unremunerated in that capacity. His company (TransTec) was to be remunerated for work, including work done by him, carried out for a subsidiary of Hollis. In October 1990 Mr Robinson sent an invoice to Hollis requesting payment of a "Fee for management service provided to Hollis Industries plc as agreed" in the sum of £200,000, and asked for the cheque to be made payable to TransTec.

5. Members are required to register any employment "in which the Member has any pecuniary interest." The submission of the invoice demonstrates that payment was expected, and that this was therefore remunerated employment, irrespective of whether or when the payment was in fact received. Because the company was owned by Mr Robinson and his own services were an integral part of the agreement for services for which the remuneration was sought, the fact that the payment was to be made to his company, TransTec, for services provided by that company does not alter our view of this case. Whether the payment was intended to be made to Mr Robinson or TransTec is immaterial. The October 1990 invoice confirmed the agreement. Both demonstrate the registrable interest. We find that Mr Robinson had a registrable interest which he failed to register.

6. When questions were put to him in 1998 about whether he had received or had expected to receive any benefit in respect of his chairmanship of Hollis, Mr Robinson did not make available the documents relevant to the Lock agreement and the invoice he sent to Hollis, nor did he volunteer information about the negotiations or the transaction. In his evidence to us Mr Robinson repeatedly stressed that the arrangement in respect of Lock (Hollis's subsidiary) was completely separate from his non-executive role as chairman of Hollis; but he also said at one point that Hollis and Lock were "one and the same thing".[6] He said he had forgotten about the arrangement in 1998. He had put considerable effort into negotiating it and had made several attempts to secure the agreed payment for it. He should have provided that information. We agree with the Commissioner's findings set out in paragraphs 2(ii) and (iii) above that he failed to provide the then Commissioner and the Committee with full and accurate responses to their questions.

7. A subsequent and subsidiary point is that Mr Robinson has adamantly denied that he received the money and has told us of his determination to prove his case. Mr Robinson has told us that he will seek the agreement of the administrators of Pergamon AGB plc to his carrying out a thorough search of that company's records in the hope of finding the cheque which is at the centre of the allegations against him and thereby establishing to whom it was made payable and who received it. We do not propose to make a recommendation to the House for three months, which we regard as a reasonable opportunity for that question to be resolved.

6  Q158. Back

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