Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report




Complaints from Mr Mohamed Al Fayed, The Guardian and others
against twenty-five Members

  1. Madam Speaker: "I have a short announcement to make. While the House has been adjourned, very serious allegations have been widely made about the conduct of a number of Members. Indeed, the reputation of the House as a whole has been called into question. As Speaker, I am bound to be concerned about that. It is not for me to make any kind of judgment on the merits of the complaints made; but I would not be doing my duty as Speaker if I allowed this situation to pass without saying that I believe very strongly indeed that these matters must be resolved as soon as possible.

I hope that the Committee on Standards and Privileges will find it possible to make an early special report to the House, so that the full nature and scope of any investigations that it undertakes may be made known. If the Committee or the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards need additional powers, no doubt the House will be invited to decide whether they should be granted. I can assure the House that all necessary steps will be taken to ensure that the Committee and the Commissioner are adequately staffed for whatever investigation they may undertake."

[Extract from the Speaker's statement of 14 October 1996.]

  2. My authority for investigating complaints is set out in Standing Order No. 121B. It is:

    "to receive and, if he [the Parliamentary Commissioner] thinks fit, to investigate specific complaints from Members and from members of the public in respect of-

    (a)  the registration and declaration of interests, or

    (b)  other aspects of the propriety of a Member's conduct,

    (c)  and to report to the Committee on Standards and Privileges or to an appropriate sub-committee thereof."

  3. This authority has been stretched to the limit - but not, I hope, beyond it - during the course of this inquiry. Some of the allegations were supplied from a variety of sources and have evolved over a period. These I had to interpret and translate into specific complaints to put to the Members concerned. They may not always have been in the terms which "complainants" would have chosen. But the last of the allegations from The Guardian,[4] for example, were not received in final form until the end of February 1997, by which time much of the evidence was already in the process of being assembled.

  4. Besides myself, the inquiry team has consisted of Mr Nigel Pleming QC (Counsel), Mr David Doig (Secretary) and my personal secretaries Deborah Gent and Philippa Wainwright. I also had some accounting assistance from the Government Accountancy Service.

  5. Because we were concurrently engaged on the lengthy investigation of allegations against Mr Michael Howard,[5] this inquiry did not get fully under way until early 1997 (although part of the period leading up to then was taken up with the process of collating the necessary documentation).

  6. This report deals with allegations against a total of 25 Members. In alphabetical order they are: Mr Robert Atkins; Mr Alan Beith; Mr Vivian Bendall; Sir Andrew Bowden; Mr John Bowis; Sir Graham Bright; Mr Michael Brown; Mr Nirj Deva; Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody; Sir Anthony Durant; Sir Michael Grylls; Mr Doug Hoyle; Mr Neil Hamilton; Sir Peter Hordern; Mr Norman Lamont; Lady Olga Maitland; Mr Gerry Malone; Mr David Mellor; Mr Michael Portillo; Mr David Shaw; Mr Chris Smith; Mr Tim Smith; Sir Malcolm Thornton; Sir Gerard Vaughan; and Sir John Wheeler.

  7. As indicated in my interim report to the Select Committee of 19 March 1997, the inquiry has been a detailed and complex one. Over 60 witnesses provided evidence, 13 oral hearings were held and some 14,000 pages of documents were examined.

  8. A complete list of witnesses is at Annex 2. A list of the oral hearings is at Annex 3. With very few exceptions, documents quoted from or otherwise referred to in the report are attached as Appendices. In some cases, minor redactions have been made, but only where to publish material would have unnecessarily infringed the confidentiality of personal or financial information. The Appendices are listed at Annex 4.

4  For the detailed chronology of the correspondence with The Guardian, see paras 28-31 and Appendices 15-27. Back

5  This report was published as an Appendix to the Fourth Report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, HC (1996-97) 359. Back

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Prepared 8 July 1997