In accordance with Resolutions made by the House of Commons on 17 December 1985 and 28 June 1993, holders of photo-identity passes as Members’ secretaries or research assistants are in essence required to register:
· Any occupation or employment for which they receive over £329 from the same source in the course of a calendar year, if that occupation or employment is in any way advantaged by the privileged access to Parliament afforded by their pass.
· Any gift (eg: jewellery) or benefit (eg: hospitality, services or facilities) they receive in the course of a calendar year, if the value of the gift or benefit exceeds £329 and if it in any way relates to or arises from their work in Parliament.
If Andy Coulson did receive a remuneration package from News international after leaving the company, this could be perceived as influencing his behaviour/conduct as a privileged Commons passholder. It should have been declared in the Register of Members’ Secretaries and Research Assistants
I’ve spoken to four former News of the World journalists in the last week. To say they are not happy with the senior management of News International is an understatement. Here is a an email I received from one of them. Needless to say he wishes to remain anonymous for fear of ‘retribution’. I’m familiar with that feeling so I’ll respect his wishes. I’ve slightly amended the words in one sentence in order to avoid potential contempt of court/libel allegations.
I am a News of the World journalist and, in view of today’s revelations about payments to Andy Coulson, feel compelled by ever-increasing rage to draw your attention to the fact that, even while News International is under intense scrutiny for its illegal activities, the company is playing fast and loose with employment law to avoid paying fair severance to many, many innocent people; people like me who had no knowledge of hacking but who can wave goodbye to their careers because of it. In brief, News International is using ‘employment status’ to dodge paying everyone the four weeks contractual severance. For some this means losing almost half their entitlement and for others it means being cast adrift without a penny. These are people who played a major part in the production of the paper, people who held titles for years and worked exclusively for the News of the World. It is sickening that the people who are suffering most because of the behaviour of others are being treated so shabbily! Andy Coulson left with hundreds of thousands of pounds, a free car and private health care. The people who turned up to work hellish hours to produce his paper, in ignorance of how the content was gathered, get nothing. You have to ask, where’s the justice?”
No doubt the staff association at News International will be doing as good a job at representing their members as the NUJ would in these circumstances.
Q1735 Tom Watson: Just one last round of questioning. You knew that you were going to resign before sentencing but on the day of sentencing you resigned from the paper.
Mr Coulson: I actually resigned two weeks before I announced it.
Q1736 Tom Watson: Two weeks before. And did you get a redundancy payment for that?
Mr Coulson: I got what was contractually due to me. Obviously I did not work my notice so I received what was contractually due.
Q1737 Tom Watson: Then you were six months out of work.
Mr Coulson: About five months.
Q1738 Tom Watson: And then you went work directly for the Conservative Party.
Mr Coulson: That is right.
Q1739 Tom Watson: And you have not got any secondary income other than that have you?
Mr Coulson: No.
Q1740 Tom Watson: So you did not do any work with PR firms in the meantime?
Mr Coulson: No, I had a brief conversation with an advertising agency about being a consultant but I never received any money from them.
Q1741 Tom Watson: So your sole income was News International and then your sole income was the Conservative Party?.
Mr Coulson: Yes.
Tom Watson: That is great, thank you.
According to Polly Curtis at the Guardian, a Conservative party source, said on 12 July: “We can give categorical assurances that he wasn’t paid by any other source”
Then in oral evidence to the DCMS Select Committee:
Q268 Mr Sanders: The New Statesman carried a story last week that News International subsidised Andy Coulson’s wages after he left your employ. Can you shed any light on that?
James Murdoch: I have no knowledge of Andy Coulson’s wages after he left the company’s employment.
Q574 Mr Sanders: Did you approve the subsidising of Andy Coulson’s salary after he left News of the World?
Rebekah Brooks: Again, that’s not true, so I didn’t approve it.
And now, this:
Coulson got hundreds of thousands of pounds from News Int:
Freedom of Information request submitted by me last December – still waiting for a response.
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2010 15:06:28 +0000
Subject: Freedom of Information Request – Andy Coulson
CABINET OFFICE – ANDY COULSON
Under the Freedom of Information Act, please tell me:
(a) On what date the Cabinet Office approved that Mr Andy Coulson could have the cost of his legal fees paid for by News International in relation to the trial of Mr Tommy Sheridan.
(b) Who within the Cabinet Office or Number Ten authorised the decision that Mr Andy Coulson could have the cost of his legal fees paid for by News International in relation to the trial of Mr Tommy Sheridan. Was it a committee that made this decision? Was it Sir Gus O’Donnell? Was it the Prime Minister? Please advise me of precisely who made this decision.
(c) Please provide me with a copy of the minutes of the meeting in which it was agreed that Mr Andy Coulson could have the cost of his legal fees paid for by News International in relation to the trial of Mr Tommy Sheridan
(d) Please provide me with all (a) written and (b) electronic submissions that were submitted to the Cabinet Office ahead of the decision being taken on whether or not the Cabinet Office should approve News International meeting the cost of Mr Andy Coulson’s legal fees in connection with the trial of Mr Tommy Sheridan. This would include all submissions from solicitors, departmental officials, ministers, Mr Andy Coulson and News International.
(e) Please provide me with all advice and guidance, both written and electronic, that has been provided to Mr Andy Coulson in relation to registering the payment of his legal fees by News International as a gift as part of the Cabinet Office’s guidelines for reporting gifts and hospitality.
(f) What internal and external legal advice the Cabinet Office sought ahead of its decision to approve News International’s payment of Mr Andy Coulson’s legal fees in relation to the trial of Mr Tommy Sheridan.
(g) Please tell me what pre-meetings were held involving (a) ministers, (b) Cabinet Office officials and (c) Mr Andy Coulson ahead of the final decision being taken to allow News International to meet the cost of Mr Andy Coulson’s legal fees in relation to the trial of Mr Tommy Sheridan.
(h) A copy of the advice (a) requested or (b) submitted from/to the Cabinet Office from the Treasury Solicitors on this matter. This may be provided either electronically or in writing and would cover any emails sent and received.
(i) Please tell me how much News International is paying towards the cost of Mr Andy Coulson’s legal fees in respect of the Tommy Sheridan trial. Given that the Cabinet Office has had to give its approval to this, the information should be readily available and should be made public.
I understand that under the Act, I should be entitled to a response within 20 working days of your receipt of this email.
Some parts of this request may be easier to answer than others. Should this prove to be the case, I would ask that you release available data as soon as possible – rather than hold up the entire request.
I would prefer to receive this information electronically. If the decision is made to withhold some of this data using exemptions within the Act, please inform me of that fact and cite the exemptions used.
If you need any clarification then please contact me at the number below or via email. Under your section 16 duty to provide advice and assistance I would expect you to contact me if you find this request unmanageable in any way.
I would be grateful if you could confirm that you have received this request, and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
Tom Watson MP – West Bromwich East
Letter from Information Commissioner’s Office:
29 June 2011
Your reference: FOI 309425
Our reference: FS50392356
Dear Mr Jenkins
Complaint from Tom Watson MP
I am writing to confirm that the Information Commissioner has received a complaint from Tom Watson MP stating that no response has been sent to an information request which was received by your organisation on 20 December 2010. We enclose a copy of this request for your information.
Any public authority in receipt of such a request is under a duty to respond within 20 working days of receipt. As you know, the Cabinet Office recently signed an undertaking regarding its response times in relation to requests.
In view of the (apparent) severe delay associated with the handling of this request, this has been brought to the attention of the Commissioner’s Enforcement team.
As it is the case that you have not responded but acknowledged receipt of the request, we would ask that you now respond within 10 working days of receipt of this letter.
You should state whether or not the information is held in a recorded form. If it is held, you should either provide the information or issue a refusal notice in accordance with the requirements of section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act or regulation 14 of the Environmental Information Regulations as appropriate. You can find more information on refusal notices contained in the guidance issued by the Commissioner which is available at:
Finally you should be aware that the Information Commissioner often receives requests for copies of the letters we send and receive when dealing with casework. Not only are we obliged to deal with these in accordance with the access provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 (the DPA) and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the FoIA), it is in the public interest that we are open, transparent and accountable for the work that we do.
However, whilst we want to disclose as much information as we reasonably can, there will be occasions where full disclosure would be wrong. It is also important that the disclosures we make do not undermine the confidence and trust in the Commissioner of those who correspond with him.
If you reply to this letter, I would be grateful if you would indicate whether any of the information you provide in connection with this matter is confidential, or for any other reason should not be disclosed to anyone who requests it. I should make clear that simply preferring that the information is withheld may not be enough to prevent disclosure. You should have a good reason why this information should not be disclosed to anyone else and explain this to us clearly and fully.
For further advice on how to deal with information requests, please visit our website at www.ico.gov.uk or call our helpline on 0303 123 1113.
If you need to contact us about this matter, please quote the case reference number from the top of this letter.
FOI Case Reception
Information Commissioner’s Office