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Christopher Irwin (Indemnification)

Volume 571: debated on Tuesday 3 December 2013

The Government have decided to indemnify Mr Christopher Irwin, head of the UK delegation to the Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) for damages and legal costs incurred in the exercise of his functions in relation to liabilities incurred or proceedings brought in any jurisdiction, whether in the United Kingdom, France, or anywhere else in Europe or in the world. This will cover legal representation, costs and civil liabilities.

A departmental minute providing full detail of the indemnity and the reasons for it has been laid in the House of Commons today.

The contractual position of Christopher Irwin is complex. This is due to the dual role of the IGC, as representative of the British and French Governments and independent regulator under EU law. Chris is appointed by me but, under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), the independent regulator, I must consult the ORR first. The head of the UK delegation can be dismissed by me, but the MoU restricts my ability to do so to a limited number of cases where he would clearly not be fit to act. Under the MoU, the head of delegation is remunerated by the ORR, but his remuneration comes from the money that the concessionaires of the tunnel (Eurotunnel) are required, under the concession, to pay towards the IGC’s expenses. Chris’s contract is with the ORR—his letter and terms of appointment characterise him not as an employee but as an individual providing services to ORR. He is remunerated on a fees for service basis.

I consider that it is only right and proper for Chris to be afforded an indemnity similar to that enjoyed by senior civil servants—SCS employees—in the course of their duties; given that Chris is an appointee of mine, even though, in order to protect his independence, the ORR “hosts” him.

The terms of the indemnity follows the precedents set for managing public money as well as the civil service management code.

The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle. If, during the period of 14 parliamentary sitting days beginning on the date on which this minute was laid before Parliament, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a parliamentary question or by otherwise raising the matter in Parliament, final approval to proceed with incurring the liability will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.