Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sky News Discovers the Jowell Smoking Gun

Richard Bestic is the journalist who may well provoke Tessa Jowell's resignation. He has discovered she has overtly lied over the ownership of shares in the Old Monk Company. Tory MP Nigel Evans had written to Jowell asking if she knew of her husband's shareholding in this company, which owns a pub chain, and could therefore conceivably have benefitted from legisaltion she was in charge of. She denied he ever owned them and Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary standards watchdog, said the MP had done nothing wrong. Sky News tonight reports that...

Forensic accountants working with the Sky Report said that Mr Mills was the "beneficial owner" of the company that bought the shares. Raj Bairoliya, from accountancy firm LLP, said: "Essentially that means to me that the shares have been transferred in his name to him." Tory MP Nigel Evans said: "It doesn't matter at the end of the day that his name wasn't on the share ownership. "If it was on the company that owned the shares and he benefited from the profit then clearly they were declarable."Opponents insisted she still has a case to answer over whether she breached codes of conduct.

This is very serious for Tessa Jowell. She had obviously asked her husband if he owned the shares and he said no - without revealing that he owned the company which in fact owned the shares. As I've stated below, ignorance is no defence and she could not have been more categoric in her letter to Evans. I have bent over backwards to give Tessa Jowell the benefot of the doubt in all of this. I still don't believe she is personally crooked, but I cannot see how she can any longer remain in her job. And I think that she will come to that conclusion herself within the next 48 hours. The question is, will Nigel Evans be left to go for the kill, or will David Cameron take it up at PMQs tomorrow?

16 comments:

Jonathan Sheppard said...

If there is a chance of it being raise at PMQs surely she must go before then. Could there be a resignation before midday tomorrow?

Anonymous said...

Get a grip Iain. How is this a smoking gun? As you say yourself she asked him a question and we may assume she duly reported the answer. She's never claimed to be a forensic accountant, unless I am very much mistaken.

Iain Dale said...

It's quite simple. She has lied. Whether she knew she was lying isn't the point. Watch the Sky News report and make your own mind up. As I say, I have bent over backwards to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I do not see how she can now survive. It gives me no pleasure to say so.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

Is ignorance an excuse anonymous?

Anonymous said...

We see it time and time again with Labour ministers - their overriding imperative appears to be to hold onto officeat all costs, no matter how the odds are stacked against the individual concerned. This appears to be especially so in Jowell's who is said to be incredibly ambitious.
Well her number's finally up, I imagine the exchange of letters have already been written - expect an announcement around 10am tomorrow just after the breakfast radio and TV programmes go off air - cynical to the end.
More evidence of this Blair "Whiter than White" government? What a joke.

Anonymous said...

Not wishing to split hairs here Iain and I agree that you've been very generous towards Tessa Jowell until now,but is it logically possible to lie if you don't know you're lying - I think not.

Cllr David Morton said...

If she didn't know she was lying then is it lying? If there is no intent to mislead then it might just be incompetence, negligence or an honest mistake. I think there is a general sence that she is not personally on the make and has just left a didgy husband. i think she'll hang on but my track record on these things isn't good!

Anonymous said...

You say, "Whether she knew she was lying isn't the point." Er...hang on, if you don't KNOW you're lying, you're not lying. You're telling what you believe to be the truth. Dear me.

Hughes Views said...

Are you sure you're not lying Iain? All of us had better stop saying or writing anything ever again should you ever get near the levers of power if "Whether she knew she was lying isn't the point" be your position!

I spy the thin end of a wedge or maybe even a slippery slope or (sorry I can't call any more clich├ęs to mind)...

Jonathan Sheppard said...

Maybe not anoymous - but again - is ignorance an excuse in these situations? Can Ministers keep getting away with things by suggesting they were unaware as to what was going on?

Anonymous said...

Sky aren't leading with it and it only makes the inside pages of the mail. i think the media are getting bored of the story (as are ordinary punters i should think).

hannibal said...

Whatever happened to the old honour code? Carrington resigned from Thatcher's Cabinet when he'd done nothing wrong but took responsibility for the mistakes of others.

That said I hope she hangs on, it'll certainly help our Conservative London Borough campaigns!

Anonymous said...

Looks like you're the one who's been smoking, given that nobody serious is following your news judgement.

William Norton said...

The "I didn't know" defence would work with a blind trust arrangement (where the whole point is to ensure that the beneficiary, Jowell, doesn't know what she owns). It cannot apply to a spouse's personal company.

The idea (speaking-very-slowly) is that the Minister is supposed to find out what their spouse is doing to make sure that the rules have not been broken.

It might be helpful to compare the rules for the Stock Exchange where directors have to declare their beneficial interests and those of a very widely defined family, family trusts etc.

If Jowell had been a director of Old Monk plc and Mills had done this without it being declared, the UK Listing Authority would be arranging an interview for her.

He Who Is Jim said...

Indeed, a lie is a deliberate untruth. I'm not sure to what extent that changes anything as regards Jowell's conduct, but at least we'll have a semantically correct discussion about it ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hannibal - without commenting on whether Jowell should go (I hold no brief for her), Carrington's resignation was based on entirely different principles. He took responsibility for a clear error by his department in leaving the Falklands unprotected - even though there is some evidence that he had been alert to the issue but was blocked by cabinet from dealing with it. He takes great credit for falling on his sword, although the doctrine of ministerial responsibility disappeared in the later 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s before very briefly being revived by Estelle Morris when she resigned as Education Secretary.

There is no question of Jowell going over a point of ministerial responsibility as her crisis has nothing to do with anything which has happened in her department. Whether she should go or not comes down to whether her behaviour has been either (a) dishonest; or (b) so grossly incompetent she cannot be trusted to be a minister. She flatly denies both charges whereas Carrington did not deny that a major error had occured in his department because it was undeniable whether or not he was to blame. I don't claim to have a view on whether Jowell's denials that she is dishonest or incompetent are worth a lot, but there are no real parallels with Carrington.