Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Eighth Report

Annex G

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

from Mr John Hayes MP

Further to your letter of the 22nd March and our subsequent conversation, I write concerning the matters detailed. Thank you for giving me adequate time to reply.

At the time of my speech on the 2000 budget I had no relevant remunerated directorships or any other employment, other than my employment as a Member of Parliament. Indeed, I have had no professional involvement with the IT industry since 7th December 1999 when I resigned as a director of The Data Base—the company for which I worked for many years before my election to Parliament. The company was sold in January 2000. As I was not a shareholder I had no involvement with and received no benefit from the sale. I have no professional relationship with the new owner and I have no current or past professional involvement with any other IT company.

In fact I had done no work for the company for many months before 7th December 1999 and in the whole of 1999 worked for The Data Base for only a few days. So, although I know that the advice to members is to declare "recent past" interests, my remunerated employment with the industry cannot be said by the time of my speech on 21st March 2000 to have been "recent".

Considering my speech itself, even if none of the above applied, I suggest that a declaration of interest would have been perverse. I argued in the relevant part of the speech a case against IR35, which applies only to individual self employed IT consultants. Neither my former company nor I fell, at any time, into this category. So, not only did I "neither seek preferential treatment for or seek to promote the interests of" IT suppliers like The Data Base, I actually made a case against them. I argued in my speech against the acquisition of IT products and services in favour of the better use of existing, already purchased, IT equipment and for the employment of the kind of individual private IT consultants against whom The Data Base competed. The equivalent would be an MP who was also a taxi driver promoting the case for trains and buses and being accused of doing so because of a pecuniary interest!

With this in mind, no reasonable person could conclude that "financial interests could have shaped" my "standpoint" in these proceedings or "influenced the performance" of my public duty (I draw the key phrases from previous reports of your committee). Indeed, it might reasonably be estimated that such past interests as I had would have led me to express the opposite point of view. A reasonable person, on the other hand, might come to the conclusion that, in the best traditions of Parliament, I was drawing on past experience—without regard to private interests—to add value to the debate. If members cannot behave thus I suggest that they can barely contribute meaningfully to the business of Parliament at all.

Mr Cryer cites three other companies with which I was once associated. These had not connection whatsoever with the IT industry, IR35 or any of the content of my speech. They were BES companies the sole business of which was renting properties which they acquired many years ago.

The current register shows that I no longer hold an IT company directorship, but—due to an oversight on my part—the 2000 register did not do so. The register was compiled in December 1999, shortly (a couple of weeks) after I ceased to be, nominally, involved with my old company. I acknowledge that I should have updated my entry sooner. I respectfully suggest, however, that in respect of changes to members' entries the code of conduct (1.10) is targeted more at those acquiring interests than those surrendering them (1.11 clearly suggests this); particularly when, as in my case, the member gains no advantage from not amending the register.

Given my employment status, the absence of a pecuniary interest at the time of the speech concerned or recently before it and paragraphs 4 and 5 above, Mr Cryer's criticisms of me are groundless.

I am most grateful for the courtesy that you have shown me.

11 April 2001

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