Letter: Edward Heath: a 'blatant misrepresentation' of me

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The Independent Online
THE ARTICLES about me in your paper last weekend ("Revealed: Ted Heath's cash links with China", 10 January) were misleading and inaccurate. All the remunerated advisory roles which you claim to have "revealed" were registered in the House of Commons Members' Interests when I first accepted them on behalf of the Dumpton Gap Company in the early 1990s, with the exception of the relationship with Commercial General Union's China Index Fund, which only took effect in 1997.

When the Guide to the Rules Relating to the Conduct of Members was revised in 1996, I examined the definition of the purpose of the registration of interests, which stated that the register exists to "provide information of any pecuniary interest or other material benefit which a Member receives which might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions, speeches or votes in Parliament or actions taken in his or her capacity as a Member of Parliament".

When it came to considering my entry in the 1996 Register of Members' Interests, I took the view that the various advisory roles that I had undertaken on behalf of the Dumpton Gap Company were not provided by me as an MP, and were unrelated to membership. I concluded that it was not necessary to list them all individually. I explained my view to Sir Gordon Downey, the then Commissioner for Standards and, in late March 1996, he sent me a letter, to which he attached a copy of the entry that subsequently appeared against my name in the 1996 Register, including the Dumpton Gap Company, and saying that it had been revised along the lines we agreed.

None of the advisory roles that I fulfil on behalf of Dumpton Gap in any way relates to my membership of the House of Commons and, since 1996, I have made no parliamentary intervention of any sort which has been, or could reasonably be supposed to have been, linked to any of them. On that basis, I believe that I have acted properly in registering my outside interests as I have. However, I am perfectly happy to make matters plain, and all remaining remunerated advisory roles will be set out in the next Register. I have now contacted the Registrar of Members' Interests accordingly.

In fact, all but two of the advisory roles you mentioned have come to an end. The Dumpton Gap Company, of which I am chairman, has of course filed annual statements with Companies House every year since 1994. It has to by law. It is not, however, a requirement for an unlimited company to file accounts. I resent the innuendo that I have funded what is described as a "champagne lifestyle" in some dishonest or underhand fashion. The simple fact is that I have saved all my life and, in the second half of the 1970s, after I ceased to be Prime Minister, I wrote three best-selling books on sailing, on music and on travels. For the past 20 or so years, I have lectured worldwide.

Most misleading of all, however, was the paragraph on page 4 in which it was alleged that I had been branded an "apologist for murder". It is untrue to say that I have ever defended the killings in Tiananmen Square. You quote me as saying in one interview that "There was a crisis in Tiananmen Square after a month in which the civil authorities had been defied and they took action about it very well". As the Press Association accurately reported at the time and as I have also explained subsequently, the sentence ended after "they took action about it". The next sentence began: "Very well, we can criticise it in exactly the same way as people criticise Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland, but this isn't by any means the whole story..."

Finally, I am surprised that a newspaper of your standing should have allowed such a selective quotation from my memoirs. What I actually wrote was: "Of course, it was right to deplore and condemn the brutal suppression which occurred in June 1989, but, in general, we in the West must be rather more cautious about judging the political arrangements in other parts of the world by our own subjective standards". You only saw fit to publish the second (unitalicised) half of the sentence, which created a blatant misrepresentation of my actual position, and of the point I was making.


House of Commons,

London SW1