Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Eighth Report


Annex C

Letter to the former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr Ian Bruce

I noted from "Gallery News" that you have been asked to investigate the non-declaration of funds by Mr Archy Kirkwood from the Joseph Rowntree Trust. The following information is provided to you to help with that investigation and you may feel it gives rise to additional matters you may wish to investigate.

Prior to the general election my attention was drawn to the internet website "tacticalvoter.net". The web site was designed to help Liberal Democrat and Labour Voters who's preferred candidate was in third place to swap votes tactically with each other so that the party who had the best chance of beating the Conservative candidate would be supported. This tactic was not officially supported by the two parties concerned and indeed if it was it could give rise to problems with electoral law. Archy Kirkwood's seat with Conservatives in second and Labour in third place directly benefited from the objectives of this site.

Tacticalvoter.net stated on its site that "tacticalvoter.net is not affiliated to or funded by any political party." "We are funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd and the New Politics Network." These organisations claim that they are not part of any political party. However a cursory glance at their activities would lead one to suspect that they have two main reasons for existing. Firstly to channel money from sources that do not want to be formally linked to a party and secondly to fund party political activities that the Labour Party and Liberal Democrat party would wish to deny responsibility for.

Around about April 2001 I checked to see if JRRT Ltd had provided funds. I spoke first to Joy Bowden, the Company Secretary who referred me to Dr Tony Flower the Trust's Consultant who had dealt with the grant. He stated that an initial grant had been made of £4,000 he also confirmed that the Chairman of the Trustees, Archy Kirkwood, had been in favour of handing out this grant.

There are three Rowntree Trust Organisations who each claim to be separate so that they can claim different charitable/legal status. Archy Kirkwood is Chairman of the Joseph Rowntree Trust Ltd which I understand has no charitable status and is therefore free to apply its funds to party political objectives. Indeed it explains as much on its own web site www.jjrt.org.uk.

Receiving money and support from such trusts are a way for Political Parties to hide sources of their income but falls foul of the public interest that as money is paid to influence policy that the public are entitled to know about it. However by not passing money through his political party Archy Kirkwood falls foul of the House rules that requires him to declare all funds that could influence his Parliamentary activities. Also, in respect of the allegation you are investigating, he can not claim money paid to him is not associated with him being a member of Parliament.

Archie Kirkwood's position as Chairman of the Social Security Select Committee gives rise to further possible conflicts of interest. JRRT Ltd operate through giving grants (£750,000 pa) to a wide range of individuals and bodies that might be called on or volunteer to give evidence to his Select Committee. The grants are only available to people working to the political agenda of JRRT Ltd and this is largely determined by its Chairman. In these circumstances the rules of the House must surely require that Mr Kirkwood's entry in the register of interests should have listed all the grants given by JRRT Ltd.

I enclose some documentation downloaded from the web to authenticate the above. Please let me know if you require anything further.

2 January 2002





 
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