Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report

Annex B

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

from Mr Geoffrey Robinson MP

You have sent me a copy of Mr Heathcoat-Amory's letter of 19 March 2001 so that I may comment on the points made in it. The complaint that Mr Heathcoat-Amory has made is that I failed to declare a payment of £200,000 remuneration received as chairman of Hollis Industries plc ("Hollis"). This is the same complaint as dealt with by the Committee on Standards & Privileges in 1998 and also by the inquiry conducted under Section 447 of the Companies Act 1985 by the Department of Trade and Industry.

It is because this issue has been covered so exhaustively, particularly by the DTI inquiry, that I am able to respond to you quickly.

Let me say once again that I have never sought nor received any payment for my position as chairman of Hollis. This is the complaint made against me and I am absolutely categoric on my position.

You will have seen the invoice reproduced in the Daily Mail on 19 March 2001. Let me explain the background to this.

During the period April to June 1990 a contract for management services, notably engineering and sales, was negotiated between Lock International, a subsiduary of Hollis, and Transfer Technology Limited, a private company at that time almost exclusively owned by me. This contract had nothing to do with my role as Chairman of Hollis. As part of the contract I was to provide management services. This was expressly done through Transfer Technology Limited and, in any event, was not declarable since no payment was received.

Correspondence surrounding the negotiation of this contract is attached for your convenience. You will note that the agreement was subject to the ultimate approval of Robert Maxwell (Michael Stoney's letter of 30 April 1990—"subject to Group Chairman's final approval").

As the year progressed a great deal of work was done by Transfer Technology Limited's engineers and sales people in execution of the contract and I began to solicit payment from the Maxwell side from September/October onwards via Michael Stoney and Kevin Maxwell. As you will have seen from Mr Heathcoat-Amory's letter and the Daily Mail article, an invoice for the work was raised on 24 October 1990. My diary records the previous evening I had met Kevin Maxwell and that day I was working from home. It is likely that I will have dictated the details for the invoice to Margaret Simms from home, and this has caused the invoice to be raised on my home notepaper. Please note, however, that I quite explicitly stated that the money was to be paid to Transfer Technology Limited. Mrs Simms does not remember typing the invoice.

The next document reproduced by Mr Bower and the Daily Mail, dated 26 November 1990, makes it quite clear that the money had not been paid. The manuscript note on this document I believe to be that of Kevin Maxwell. In full it reads "bring forward [to] Robert Maxwell for approval". You will remember that it was made clear in April 1990 the contract was subject to his ultimate approval.

The next step was for Kevin Maxwell to present the invoice to his father. In his letter to my lawyer, dated 22 February 1999 (see attached) Kevin Maxwell is categoric that his father refused to sanction the payment, despite having previously verbally agreed to it.

Every person alive who I think would have knowledge of this has independently said that the money was not received. Mr Michael Stoney, the Finance Director of PAGB, signed an affidavit to this effect, which is attached. The other parties who would have known if the money had been paid to Transfer Technology Limited are Dr M S Ahmed and Mr Roger Davis the then Managing Director and Financial Director respectively of Transfer Technology Limited. Both have signed affidavits to the effect that the money was not paid to Transfer Technology Limited. (In the time available we have not located a copy of Dr Ahmed's affidavit. It will follow. That of Mr Davis is attached).

This leaves open the possibility that the money was paid to my personal account without any of the above people knowing. Ms Brenda Price, who handles all my financial matters, has retrieved all the relevant records. We have my personal bank statements for the period and, should you wish, you are welcome to study these, although naturally I would prefer my personal financial details to remain private.

In the course of the DTI inquiry I obtained my wife and children's consent to reveal details of any accounts they may have had. No trace of any undisclosed account was found. Bank statements for 1990 had, unfortunately, been destroyed by National Westminster as part of its standard data destruction programme, but the nearest account records, those of 1991, for myself, my family and related company records were all fully disclosed.

Returning to the story in the Daily Mail. The details of cheque number 1751 paid out by PAGB for £200,000 in December 1990 are correct. What neither I, nor the DTI inspector, could find out was to whom it was paid, despite twelve months of hard searching.

Let me again be categoric. I did not receive the money directly or indirectly. No one wishes more than I to know what happened to the cheque.

By way of further background, I should explain that by December 1990 a proposal had been tabled whereby the business of Lock, Transfer Technology Limited and others would come together under one group. By the end of 1990 it was clear that the enlarged group, which included Lock, would benefit from the work done at that company and on this basis it was acceptable that the fee for the management contract was not going to be received.

Please let me know how you would like to take this forward.

23 March 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 4 May 2001