Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report

Annex 1

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

from Mr Bernard O'Sullivan, Dechert, Solicitors

Thank you for sending me a copy of your draft memorandum together with the accompanying annexes.

I am afraid that although I have spent several hours last night and this morning reviewing the papers. I have not yet been able to do anything more than skim the documents. Nonetheless, upon this skimmed reading, it is clear to me that the draft memorandum contains a number of factual inaccuracies, inferences and evidence which have not been put to Mr Robinson, and a large volume of evidence which he has not seen, had a chance to study or comment upon.

With the best will in the world it will simply not be possible to give you a response by tomorrow morning at 9.00 am. There is simply too much material which needs to be assimilated and too many facts not fully presented. In addition it is necessary to go back to the initial source material because your draft memorandum fails to deal at all with one of the central planks of Mr Robinson's response to the allegation, the inherent inplausibility of Mr Robert Maxwell making a payment to Mr Robinson just days before making a payment of £150,000 to him from Central & Sheerwood Plc, the interlinking of these two issues and the contrast between their treatment i.e. one very correctly carried out in every aspect and the other, as you allege, an illicit arrangement. There are also several other points which I regard as very important which are all omitted.

What we will be attempting to do is persuade you that the conclusion you have drawn is erroneous in that it does not, for the most part, take into account the material which Mr Robinson relies and is drawn on incomplete evidence. This will take time.

There is a further complicating factor I should mention. I believe it is necessary to instruct Counsel to give me advice in respect of this draft memorandum. As you will have gathered, I am no longer in a position to instruct our counsel of choice because of his Honour Judge Jeremy Roberts' elevation to the bench. I will therefore need to instruct new counsel. There will be a short time whilst our new counsel reads in.

Given this factor and the extensive work which needs to be done to respond top the draft memorandum because of the factual errors and its failure to deal with central core points of Mr Robinson's case, I would ask until Friday 11 May 2001 in which to respond.

It is clear, even on a skimmed read, that you have reached conclusions without, on critical issues, taking account of Mr Robinson's position or explaining why you disregard Mr Robinson's position.

As I am sure you will be appreciate, you draft memorandum may have a considerable impact on Mr Robinson's standing. He has given you, as you have noted, full co-operation. He, like you, would wish that your enquiry be dealt with as soon as possible, but only if it can be completed properly. Without wishing to be critical it seems to us that in your desire to fit within the timetable, you have overlooked material which is crucial to Mr Robinson's position. It would be wrong in principle and it might be thought to be oppressive to compound, what we would categorise as error, by not providing Mr Robinson sufficient time in which to give you his response. I would respectfully suggest that the guiding principle for you should be fairness to Mr Robinson (especially when he has co-operated so fully and the charges now made in your draft memorandum are so grave). The guiding principle should not be extraneous factors which are outside all of our control.

I look forward to hearing from you.

25 April 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