Letter to the former Parliamentary Commissioner
for Standards from Mr Ian Bruce
Further to my letter of the 2nd January I now understand
that you have received a letter of complaint regarding Mr Archy
Kirkwood. Would you please now action my original complaint but
reading it in conjunction with this letter.
I have now had the opportunity to examine the accounts
of Joseph Rowntree Trust Ltd from 1st January 1992 to 31st December
2000. I have also read the history of the Trust that was produced
in 1998. The Trust is very open about its activities. It makes
clear that it is not involved in Charitable work nor in providing
funds for research but exclusively devotes its funds for "political
purposes; to promote political reform and constitutional change
as well as the interests of social justice. It does so by funding
campaigning organisations and individuals who have reform their
objective". In the past there was a fairly even handed distribution
of funds to all parties when in opposition but that has not been
the case under the Chairmanship of Mr Kirkwood.
During my research I have consulted the Register
of Members' Interests, going back over the past decade. The Members'
description of the monies they received from JRRT Ltd varies between
inadequate and downright misleading. Further as Company accounts
are not publicly available for up to two years after the donation
has been made the information given in the Register needs to be
transparent and up to date.
In Mr Kirkwood's case a reading of the register leads
one to believe that he does some voluntary work for a charitable
trust and is unremunerated. Further that from time to time this
"charity" pays for research projects that Mr Kirkwood
oversees and helps to defray expenses in running the Select Committee
he chairs. Coincidentally when elections come along they
make a donation to his expenses. The reality is, I believe, very
Firstly Mr Kirkwood leaves off the "Ltd"
at the end of the Trust's name. The casual Parliamentary reader
might confuse this organisation with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
which is a nonparty research organisation that publish papers
free of charge to MPs. He does not mention that he is the prime
mover in providing an average £750,000 to fund political
activity and buy influence. He does not list the organisations
and individuals that JRRT Ltd funds nor does he declare an interest
when speaking in the House on issues where JRRT Ltd has directly
Secondly Mr Kirkwood has not declared that he is
Chairman of the Board of JRRT (Properties) Ltd (which owns commercially
let properties in York, London and Salisbury) and JRRT (Investments)
Ltd (which owns £24 Million of shares in quoted companies).
He is also Chairman of the trustees of Joseph Rowntree Social
Service Trust (a non Registered Charity). All the activities of
these Companies and the Charity should be declared in the Register
and Mr Kirkwood should declare an interest when speaking in the
Thirdly Mr Kirkwood says he is unremunerated. However
he and his constituency party have consistently received direct
support from JRRT Ltd as follows: 1992£12,716; 1995£4,467;
1996£16,268; 1997£17,069; 1998£691;
1999£9,118. In 1998 and 1999 Lord Smith of Clifton
received £691 and £8,269 for so called "Research
Assistance" which I believe was the other half of the funding
of Mr Kirkwood's "Researcher". If this correct it would
show a deliberate attempt to hide the extent of JRRT Ltd's support.
Also Mr Kirkwood has control of £750,000 pa to spend on campaigns
of his choosing and certainly since becoming Chairman there has
been a marked change in the distribution of funds towards campaigns
which are in line with his personal political objectives and are
certainly "in support of his role as a Member of Parliament".
Fourthly Mr Kirkwood has received support for his
2001 election expenses but has not declared the amount of this
benefit. He does so by relying on the general declaration that
all MPs have to make about organisations that donate more than
25% to his election expenses. However the company reports and
published history of JRRT Ltd make clear that they only contribute
election expenses to MPs who work with JRRT Ltd. Also Mr Kirkwood
receives higher support than any other MP. Therefore in addition
to his existing declaration he should declare the amount of this
Fifthly the Register should include all regular donations
made by an organisation to a Member's Constituency Association
if those donations exceed £500. JRRT Ltd paid Roxburgh &
Berwickshire Liberal Democrats £400 in 1995, £2,000
in 1997 and £850 in 1999. None of these payments have been
declared and although JRRT Ltd have made donations to other MP's
Constituencies no other Constituency has received so much or so
Sixthly Mr Kirkwood receives expenses on behalf of
the Social Security (now Work & Pensions) Select Committee.
This surely is improper. The Select Committee Members should not
allow their Chairman to receive these expenses on their and their
witnesses behalf. I suspect the Committee believes they are receiving
money with no strings attached from a charity but they are, in
reality, receiving money from a biased campaigning organisation.
There is also the very important issue that some of the witnesses
may also be in receipt of JRRT Ltd's donations and this surely
can not be acceptable to Parliament. Indeed I believe Mr Kirkwood
can not properly both be the Chairman of a Select Committee and
the Chairman of a Political Lobbying organisation both dealing
directly with Social Security reform. To continue to do both jobs
surely brings Parliament into disrepute.
Seventhly the rules of the House make it clear that
there is a "real" interest to be declared if there is
the prospect of future personal reward. It should be noted that
of the five Directors who have served with Archie Kirkwood over
the decade in question no fewer than three of them have been elevated
to the Lords including the former Chairman. Also people formerly
associated with JRRT Ltd have gone on to receive substantial grants
for their future activities.
The rules of the House are not simply designed to
identify personal gain but to provide the transparency that would
show where influence was being brought to bear from outside of
the House and the Political Parties. Members are entitled to be
assisted in their work but they must scrupulously declare that.
More important is that the public have to be reassured that "moneyed
interests" do not receive hidden benefits of greater access
to the Government, Political Parties and MPs. The rules also require
that a Member does not raise matters on the floor of the House
or with Ministers that is of particular benefit to an organisation
when he has been in receipt of any such benefit from that organisation.
When a Member is not preventing from raising the matter because
it is of general not specific interest they must still declare
that interest in every relevant debate.
By way of illustration of how I believe Mr Kirkwood
is not keeping to these rules let me illustrate with reference
to the last general speech he made on the Floor of the House.
The occasion was just after the General Election on 20th June
2001 starting at the bottom of Column 79 of Hansard. Mr Kirkwood
made no declaration of interest. The speech followed one by Peter
Mandelson that dealt with the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Mr Kirkwood praised Mr Mandelson's speech and pledged the Liberal
Democrats to work with the Government to support their efforts
to secure peace. He did not mention that since Mr Mandelson had
ceased to be a Minister that JRRT Ltd had started to fund his
campaigning work. He also did not mention the role that Mr Mandelson
had played in other organisations funded by JRRT Ltd prior to
Labour coming to power or his role in obtaining money from JRRT
Ltd to fund the offices of the Labour Shadow Cabinet. More importantly,
as the subject raised was Northern Ireland, Mr Kirkwood failed
to declare the JRRT Ltd funding to the UDP (£22,500), SDLP
(£45,000), UUP (£72,935), PUP (£39,l66), NI Women's
Coalition (£32,500), David Trimble (£40,000), Dr (now
Lord) John Alderdice (£21,000) or the Alliance Party (£10l,333).
Mr Kirkwood's speech then turned to a claim that
the Liberal Democrats would be the effective opposition. He should
of that point declared the funding of the Liberal Democrats by
JRRT Ltd (£l,745,575 over 7 years) and his role in his first
year as Chairman in 1999 of increasing that year's contribution
to £800,000. This was three times more than ever given in
a single year before. He also should have declared the funding
for the Labour Shadow Cabinet (£l78,462) to help them into
power, the "Labour Initiative on Cooperation" (£86,250)
which I assume was to organise the secret Lib-Lab pact prior to
the 1997 election, the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform (£l23,371)
to work for proportional representation to help the Liberal Democrats
share power with Labour and the Make Votes Count Campaign (£208,680
up to 2000) which Stephen Twigg, MP resigned from as he became
Deputy Leader of the House. A declaration would certainly have
shown his remarks in a different light.
In his third paragraph Mr Kirkwood dealt with Opinion
Polls. He should have declared the "State of Nation opinion
poll" JRRT Ltd financed in the year 2000 (£52,128).
A major part of his speech then dealt with Europe and the need
for a campaign to sell the advantages of a single currency. Here
he did not declare the JRRT Ltd funding of Britain in Europe (£12,500),
or the Conservative pro Euro entry groups Conservatives for Europe
(£67,000) and the McCleod Group and it's successor Conservative
Mainstream (£261,250). It is of course important for Parliament
and the public to know how minority causes within a party can
afford high profile campaigning and of particular interest to
know when political opponents are funding dissent within a Party.
Mr Kirkwood finished his speech with a plea to give
more power to Select Committees. He did not declare the interest
that he was receiving expenses from a lobbying organisation in
his role as a Chairman. Indeed he did not raise any problems in
the work of Select Committees that involved a lack of funding
for expenses which is the alleged reason for him receiving help
from JRRT Ltd.
I have not produced an analysis of any other of Mr
Kirkwood's speeches but I believe they all follow the same pattern
of non declaration of interests.
Although the above information is well documented
in Mr Kirkwood's case you, as Commissioner for Standards in reviewing
the accounts of JJRT Ltd will no doubt note that the amount of
information regarding political influence is not exhaustive. Prior
to the 1998 accounts JJRT Ltd were able to list hide the recipients
of approx one third of their grants under the general headings
of "other purposes" and "Trust Projects".
In the latest year 2000 accounts £1,214,600 worth of grants
were approved but because they had still to be paid the recipients
were not listed. We will not know what they were spent on until
the 2001 accounts which are not due for almost a year.
However we can find some interesting additional information
in the published accounts. We can see for instance that two people,
John Burnett (£46,041) and David Heath (£34,167) received
money for themselves and their constituencies in the run up to
election as Liberal Democrat MPs in 1997. We are left to guess
why these individuals were paid and if they were working directly
for MPs during this time. Individuals are named in the accounts
(Mary Southcott, David Ward, Cllr Peter Hunter, Hugh Simpson,
Tom Nairn, Neil Sherlock and Peter Wilkinson) with no note of
why they are receiving money from JRRT Ltd. It may be that JRRT
Ltd are sponsoring potential Lib Dem MPs in advance. Under the
present rules new MPs may think they do not have to declare these
payments. However I suggest these payments should surely be declared
when a new MP arrives and if the individuals had been working
with existing MPs those MPs should be brought to account for not
declaring JRRT Ltd support.
In summary I believe the case is overwhelming that
Mr Kirkwood is not making a proper declaration of interests in
the register or during debates. I do not believe someone can properly
be both the Chairman of a Political Lobbying Company and retain
two high level House of Commons positions as Chairman of a Select
Committee and Spokesman for the House of Commons Commission. The
House authorities should make a special ruling on how an outside
body like JRRT Ltd should publish it's donations so that Members
during debates will know what influence has been brought to bear.
Political Parties now have to declare the source of substantial
donations and it would be anomalous if JRRT Ltd were able to continue
to operate in its present mode that requires years of waiting
and weeks of research to track down who is being influenced by
The House of Commons Library has recently obtained
the accounts of JRRT Ltd for the years 1992-2000 for Mr Flook
and I assume you can obtain a copy from them. JRRT Ltd have published
a history of their organisation which tells the story up to 1998.
This is available from their headquarters in York or on their
web site www.jrrt.org.uk.
lf you require any further information please let
21 January 2002