Cleveland Bridge lawyer rejects director's assertion that Multiplex never agreed final figure for steel work.

The claim that Multiplex never agreed a final figure for parts of Cleveland Bridge's work on Wembley was dismissed as "nonsense" by the steel firm's legal team yesterday.

Former Multiplex construction director Matt Stagg's repeated assertion that Multiplex never agreed a ‘final and binding' figure was rejected in the High Court by the counsel for Cleveland Bridge.

Cleveland Bridge is claiming that it agreed a final figure of £32.66m with Multiplex for work carried out to the 15 February 2004, which Multiplex later reneged on as part of its ‘Armageddon Plan' to force the firm off the site. Multiplex claims that the figure was only intended for ‘cashflow', and was always subject to ‘clawback'.

Cleveland Bridge lawyer Hugh Tomlinson confronted Stagg with a Multiplex draft of an agreement between the two parties aimed at resolving the dispute, which stated:

"The value prepared by the contractors shall be accepted as final and binding on parties, except as modified by an independent QS." Although the wording was later altered, Tomlinson claimed this showed that Multiplex intended the £32.66m to be an unchangeable amount.

The value prepared by the contractors shall be accepted as final and binding on parties, except as modified by an independent QS.

Multiplex draft agreement presented by CB lawyer

When asked to explain the words ‘final and binding', Stagg replied: "I don't understand what those words mean." He insisted that the amount was intended as an interim progress payment and could therefore be altered at a later date.

After a heated exchange, in which Stagg repeatedly said he ‘could not recall' details surrounding the agreement, Tomlinson dismissed Stagg's evidence as ‘nonsense'. Referring to the appointment of QS WN to check the February valuation, Tomlinson said: "What's the point in spending time and money with an independent QS if all you're agreeing is a cash figure?"

Tomlinson also accused Stagg and Multiplex project manager Ashley Muldoon of giving inaccurate witness statements in order to "paint CBUK in a bad light by saying they were dragging their feet" over signing a supplementary agreement. Multiplex alleges Cleveland Bridge did this to extend a temporary cost plus arrangement on the project, eventually leading to Multiplex having little choice but to find a replacement contractor.

Both Muldoon and Stagg claimed Multiplex had presented Cleveland Bridge with a draft around the 26 February, and CBUK took a long while to reply. But Tomlinson said by March Cleveland Bridge still had not received a draft, pointed to a letter of 10 March from former Cleveland Bridge chief executive Roddy Grant to Stagg, referring to a belief that a ‘draft would be presented soon' and asking for a meeting ‘as soon as possible'. He said: "Is it coincidence that Mr Muldoon makes exactly the same mistake in his witness statement?"

The trial continues.