A response from Tony Baldry MP
I’m grateful to Tony Baldry MP for providing the following response to a number of questions I put to him last week:
Dear Mr. Wilson,
Thank you for your email.
I think it may be helpful if I make a number of points.
Firstly, I have sought to respond promptly to any letters or emails that are sent to me on this matter. However, my experience is that organisations such as the Nigerian Liberty Forum and Rally for Nigeria either claim that they have never received my responses, or simply ignore the contents.
Part of my frustration with the Independent on Sunday was that the journalist concerned made no proper effort to get in touch with me, or to put to me the matters which were going to become allegations in his article. This hardly strikes me as being responsible journalism.
I think it is also fair to observe that notwithstanding the Independent on Sunday’s apology and correction, again, without making any attempt whatsoever to get in touch with me, you simply sought to repeat the IOS’s earlier allegations which were untrue and defamatory.
I have no quarrel with political blogs. I believe they serve a genuinely useful purpose in making our politics more vibrant, but I see no justification for bloggers, particularly those who are journalists like yourself, simply repeating allegations which the newspaper concerned has acknowledged were incorrect.
Incidentally, it was not my intention that your blog should be removed; simply that the defamatory material should be removed.
As I had not had the opportunity prior to publication of discussing the issues with the journalists concerned, my objective was simply to ensure that there was a correction printed as soon as possible based on the facts.
I have not read your further blog. I think that the Olswang letter, which is now available on the internet, together with the correction from the Independent on Sunday, reflect a fair and accurate statement of the facts.
As I have repeatedly made clear, I have taken no action in this matter as a Member of Parliament. My locus has been as a barrister, properly instructed.
Attention has focused on the letter that I wrote to the Foreign Secretary. Various allegations have been made against me, all of which are untrue; it has been said that the letter sought to persuade the Government to discontinue the prosecutions at present being undertaken at Southwark Crown Court – untrue.
It has been suggested that the letter sought to persuade the Government/prosecuting authorities to discontinue the investigation into James Ibori – untrue.
It has been suggested that I advised that any investigation into Mr. Ibori should be discontinued as being detrimental to British interests – again, untrue.
I understand that an application has been made under the Freedom of Information Act to the Foreign Office for disclosure of the letter and this, I understand, has been refused by the Foreign Office on the grounds that its release could be detrimental to relations between the UK and another Government and also that its release could be detrimental to the administration of justice, and as a member of the Bar, I think I would be quite rightly open to criticism if, given those conclusions by the Foreign Office, doubtless in consultation with the Office of the Attorney-General, I was to publish the letter myself. That matter, as I understand it, is now before the Information Commissioner for him to decide.
However, I think that you and organisations such as the NLF, might like to reflect on the motivation and tactics of whoever “leaked” the existence of this letter to the NLF.
If they had thought that I had done something untoward, as a Member of Parliament , they could presumably have “leaked” the whole letter, or acted in such way as that the letter could have been made available to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards who regulates the conduct of Members of Parliament. Indeed, the day after the IOS’s article was published, I immediately sent the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards a copy of the letter myself.
So those who “leaked” the existence of the letter, chose to leak what were clearly selective, inaccurate, and untrue assertions as to its contents.
So, for example, the NLF at the outset were clearly convinced that the purpose of my letter had somehow been to interfere in the existing trial of defendants at Southwark. But as I have explained to organisations such as the NLF, and Rally for Nigeria, way back in February, so far as the Southwark proceedings were concerned, my letter stated in terms “I do not represent any of these defendants, and am in no way involved with their defence, and of course the conduct of that case is a matter for the Crown Court”.
Moreover, I do somewhat have the impression that whatever the facts in this case, and however often I respond to queries, there is a determination to try and find something untoward. So, for example, I understand that you have made a request to the Foreign Office, under the FOI, for a copy of the envelope in which the letter was sent. I hope they still have it, as it will show that it is a perfectly normal white envelope !
I repeat. At no time has my involvement in this matter been as a Member of Parliament, but as a barrister.
As a Member of Parliament, I am under the rules of the House, obliged to make a number of declarations in the Register of Members’ Interests with regard to any outside interests. This I have fully done.
Finally, as a general point, it has always been a valued tradition of the English Bar, that the English Bar will properly represent and give the best possible advice to anyone involved with the English criminal system, irrespective of the allegations being made against those individuals. As far as I am aware, we have never had a situation in England where journalists and the media have sought to attack Members of the Bar because of the clients they represent.
I appreciate that I have not answered all of your questions and insofar as I haven’t answered all your questions, I have not done so because they do not relate to my conduct as a Member of Parliament and I think that it would be unprofessional of me to say anything further on this matter as a member of the Bar whilst criminal proceedings are still ongoing at Southwark Crown Court – about which, and for the avoidance of any doubt, I repeat, I have at no time made any representations and whilst criminal investigations are still outstanding against James Ibori.
The questions I asked were:
1. It has been alleged that you met with the Nigerian President last year, and discussed with him the criminal investigation by the UK authorities into the financial affairs of the Nigerian politician James Ibori. Is this true?
2. If so, did you conduct this meeting in your capacity as an MP or a barrister?
3. If it is true that this meeting took place, what was the purpose of the meeting, which issues were discussed and which actions were agreed?
4. If it is true that the meeting took place, how long afterwards did you write your letter to David Miliband about the James Ibori case?
5. Do you deny suggesting in this letter that the criminal investigation into Mr Ibori might be detrimental to British interests?
6. The Oxford Mail reports that a solicitor who has acted for the Ibori family recently paid you £37,000 for 29 hours’ legal work between September and December last year. What did this work involve?