Extract from The Independent,
20 December 2001
A member of the powerful committee that decided not
to renew the contract of the parliamentary watchdog, Elizabeth
Filkin, has failed to declare thousands of pounds in the Register
of Members' Interests.
Archy Kirkwood, spokesman for the secretive House
of Commons Commission, has received more than £100,000 from
a Trust of which he is a director. The accounts of the Joseph
Rowntree Reform Trust show that since 1989 he has received regular
payments to support research relating to his role as an MP.
But payments totalling more than £14,500, made
in 1989 and 1992 to Mr Kirkwood by the Trust, do not appear to
have been recorded in the Register of Members' Interests. Last
night the Liberal Democrat MP said he needed to check his records
but believed he may have inadvertently "omitted" to
register payments to a constituency assistant paid directly by
There is no suggestion that Mr Kirkwood personally
gained from the money. But Tory MPs last night asked whether an
MP who is in charge of regulating the Commons Standards Watchdog
has acted properly.
The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust was set up by Joseph
Rowntree, a Quaker chocolate millionaire in 1904. Mr Kirkwood
has been one of a few directors who since 1985 have had at their
disposal more than £25m to distribute to "progressive"
causes. Mr Kirkwood was made chairman in 1999.
Dozens of politicians, including Clare Short, Jack
Straw and recently Peter Mandelson have benefited from the Trust's
Andrew Lansley, a senior Tory MP, said he wanted
a reassurance that "someone in a senior position on the House
of Commons Commission has complied fully and accurately with the
House's disclosure requirements".
He said: "The Independent is undertaking
a significant public service by making the public aware of the
scale of these payments, principally to supporters of the Liberal
Democrat and Labour party. A significant number of these payments
are being paid to Archy Kirkwood as a director himself."
Yesterday Lord Shutt, who is the Trust's finance
director, said money had helped fund research projects, including
work on freedom of information and a report on community care.
No money was paid to Mr Kirkwood himself.
Payments from 1989 to 1992, exceeding £50,000,
were awarded by the Trust to Mr Kirkwood to "strengthen his
hand" as an MP after a recommendation by the former chairman,
Trevor Smith. "Trevor [now Lord Smith of Clifton] realised
what an enormous workload Archy has, because of his extensive
Westminster and national party responsibilities, as well as servicing
his rural constituency and that was to give assistance to strengthen
his hand," Lord Shutt said.
The money paid the salary of Paul Jacobs, an assistant
who worked from 1989 to 1992 for Mr Kirkwood in his Scottish constituency.
Payments of £1,849, which appear in the Trust's annual accounts
for 1989, do not appear to have been declared by Mr Kirkwood in
the Register. In 1992 a payment to Mr Kirkwood of £12,716
appears in the Trust's accounts. It is not in the MP's Registry
entry for December of that year or in the next register in January
Elizabeth Filkin, the outgoing Standards Commissioner,
who has this week written to the Speaker listing MPs who took
part in a "whispering campaign" against her, may be
asked to investigate the claim.
Yesterday Mr Kirkwood said that he may have inadvertently
omitted to register payments from the Trust to his assistant and
was "investigating it." He said: "The money that
applies to the 1989 and 1992 trust accounts is all money that
was paid as salary to Paul Jacobs, who was my constituency assistant.
There was a month in 1989 when he started to work for me when
his first month's salary was paid direct to him, unbeknown to
me ... In retrospect that might be an omission. I don't know but
I'm investigating it."
Asked about the 1992 Register, Mr Kirkwood said:
"Similarly in 1992 ... the Trust continued to pay him direct--not
through me--three months salary, which enabled him to get another
job. But I then took him off my Register and that may have been
an omission as well. But I need time to look into this."
Most of Mr Kirkwood's payments from the Joseph Rowntree
Reform Trust are correctly recorded in the register, as is his
unpaid Trust directorship.