Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Did secret Labour lender advise the Treasury?

One of the lenders to the Labour Party in the ongoing "Cash for Peerages" allegations is the co-founder of Capital One Financial Corporation, Nigel Morris. His loan to the Labour Party was a cool million. In November it was reported by the Telegraph that he had refused to comment on the loan as he considered it "confidential".

I raise this because last week, Mark Francois MP (who I'm starting to have ever greater respect for because of his persistent questioning) asked Gordon Brown what "role Mr. Nigel Morris has played in advising his Department since 1997." The answer from the Treasury was, to me at least, intriguing.

John Healey answering simply said, "There is no record of Nigel Morris having advised the Treasury since 1997." Sounds black and white at first, but it looks more like a non-denial denial to me. In fact, it's a classic Parliamentary answers in the way it is uses measured language and ignores the original question.

And let's be honest, Healey hasn't said, "Nigel Morris has never advised the Treasury", he's just said that they don't have an official record of it ever happening. Not, you understand, that I'm suggesting I have evidence that it did happen of course, I'm just saying is all.

For some reason though I now have Sir Humphrey Appleby in my head when he said;
"It is characteristic of all committee discussions and decisions that every member has a vivid recollection of them and that every member's recollection of them differs violently from every other member's recollection. Consequently, we accept the convention that the official decisions are those and only those which have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials, from which it emerges with an elegant inevitability that any decision which has been officially reached will have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials and any decision which is not recorded in the minutes has not been officially reached even if one or more members believe they can recollect it, so in this particular case, if the decision had been officially reached it would have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials, and it isn't so it wasn't."
Perhaps I'm reading between the lines too much? But if there is no record of Morris advising the Treasury, and he genuinely didn't advise the Treasury, why not just say so and remove any doubt?


Henry Whitmarsh said...

Acres of wiggle room.

Surreptitious Evil said...

Because there wasn't a record and he wasn't there, so he hasn't a clue? We could always ask the one person guaranteed to be at every (really) senior level meeting at the Treasury since 1997, but we wouldn't get an answer from him, even if we could find him, would we?


Anonymous said...

Parliamentary questions are often unskilfully phrased. Mark Francois's question invites an ambiguous answer. Better to ask:

"Has Mr. Nigel Morris given any advice to his Department since 1997?"

When the question can be answered "Yes" or "No" it is harder to fudge the reply.

dizzy said...

I suggest you read Hansard. They would just give the same reply.

Anonymous said...

His success at Capital One has also earned him invitations to speak at some of the world’s most prestigious gatherings of key business leaders, including the Transatlantic Summit on Corporate Citizenship at 11 Downing Street in London


komadori said...

Reads like a normal civil service answer to me. If the person writing the answer does not have total proof that Morris never, since 1997 made a suggestion to the treasury about anything, it's safer to say "there's no evidence" rather than "he didn't".

Giving answers like that just comes naturally with a bit of practice, especially if one thinks the person asking the question might turn awkward.