Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report

Annex F

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

from the Rt Hon David Heathcoat-Amory MP

Thank you for your letter of 20 March 2001 confirming that you will reopen the investigation into Geoffrey Robinson MP and the allegation that he received £200,000 in remuneration from Hollis Industries plc ('Hollis) which he failed to disclose as required by the rules of the House of Commons.

I write with certain additional facts which I would like your investigation to cover.

First, Mr Robinson not only denied receiving the money but he also denied asking for it. Referring to an apparent inter-company of £200,000, the Committee reports, "he unequivocally assured us that this remuneration was not agreed by him and that no payment to him was ever made". In view of the invoice which has now been discovered which Mr Robinson sent from his home address claiming £200,000 (reproduced in the Daily Mail 19 March 2001), this appears to be flatly untrue.

Second, the Standards Committee in 1998 appeared to be influenced by the fact that no evidence was found of a direct payment from Hollis to Mr Robinson. But it was another company in the Robert Maxwwell group, Pergamon AGB plc ('Pergamon') which paid the £200,000 and then recharged Hollis for the sum. The evidence from Michael Stoney (who only examined the Hollis files) and from Wilder Coe (Mr Robinson's personal accountants) is therefore misleading on this point.

Third, the Committee accepted that the payment was not found on Mr Robinson's personal bank statements (Report, appendix A). But Mr Robinson was known to have two offshore trusts in Guernsey, which were the subject of a separate report which the Committee had conducted only six months before. He also had other companies under his control, one of which Roll Centre Inc, was based in America, as well as foreign properties with bank accounts and other connected trusts. Any of these may have been the actual recipient of the £200,000 payment.

Fourth, it is described in Tom Bower's book how the payment was in fact recorded in Pergamon's books as being made to 'Orchards', in reference to Mr Robinson's private address. This was apparently discovered by Mr Hugh Aldous while conducting a separate DTI investigation. Although that report has not been published you may be aware that there is provision under S449 (1)(11) of the Companies Act 1985 for its disclosure to the Standards Committee for the purpose of disciplinary proceedings. I ask that you examine the evidence in the DTI report as part of your inquiries.

Fifth, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that under S311 of the Companies Act, directors have to be paid net of income tax and NICs, unless the recipient uses a service company or is accepted by the Revenue as an independent consultant. If Mr Robinson is claiming that he invoiced for the money as a service company or consultant, then VAT should have been charged and he should also have registered the recipient body in the Register of Members' Interests. If payment was made abroad, then income tax, NICs and VAT may all have been evaded.

I would be grateful if you could investigate these further matters as part of your inquiry.

26 March 2001

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