Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Eighth Report


Annex Eiii

Letter to Mr Archy Kirkwood MP from the Registrar of Members' Interests

RESEARCH ASSISTANCE PAID FOR BY THE JOSEPH ROWNTREE REFORM TRUST LIMITED

Thank you for your letters of 20 and 21 December 2001, the copy of the article in The Independent of 20 December, and the schedule of payments from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Limited (confirmed by the Auditors Garbutt and Elliott) and for coming to see me yesterday. The article in The Independent suggests that you did not declare payments made by the Trust to support research relating to your role as an MP in 1989 and 1992.

We discussed your Register entries for those years in the light of the information you had obtained from the Trust when we met yesterday and I undertook to confirm my advice in writing. You told me that in December 1989 a full time assistant was made available to you by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust to help with organisation in your constituency; the assistant's salary was paid by the Trust direct from its office in York. As you are aware such assistance is registrable, and you registered it, as your personal file shows, in November 1990. In the published Registers dated January 1991 and January 1992, the entry appears as under the then Category 5 in the following form: 'I receive organisational assistance in my constituency from an assistant whose salary is paid by the Joseph Rowntree Trust'. The same entry appears in the Register dated January 1992.

No entry regarding research assistance appears in the first Register of the 1992 Parliament, which is dated December 1992. You explained to me that the person ceased to work for you immediately after polling day, in which case no entry would have been required when you completed the new registration form after that election.

Although, as you said in your letter of 21 December, registration would not have been required by the time of the publication of the January 1990 Register, under the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members it is the responsibility of Members to notify the Registrar of changes in their interests within four weeks of the change occurring. This was already the requirement in 1990, which the Introduction to the January 1990 Register confirms. The Introduction adds 'The Register, amended accordingly, is available for public inspection in the Registry of Members' Interests'.

It would appear therefore that in 1990 you had a registrable interest which you did not declare at the appropriate time, but that you remedied the omission in November 1990. In these circumstances nothing further can be, or needs to be, done as far as the Register is concerned, since you took the necessary rectifying action. In any case, unless a matter is regarded as possibly serious, the Committee do not necessarily expect the Commissioner to investigate matters more than seven years old.

At the end of our conversation I suggested to you that for the avoidance of doubt you would be well-advised to consider whether there were any other items which you should register, or should have registered in the past, and you agreed to do so. If any matters of concern do come to light please contact me again.

I understand from the previous Registrar, with whom you discussed the matter on 20 December before speaking to me, that he suggested that when you had clarified the matter you should write to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to set the record straight.

8 January 2002





 
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