Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report





  115. On 30 October 1985, Mr Greer told Mr Al Fayed that he had seen Mr Michael Palmer (a partner in the firm of solicitors[40] acting for the Al Fayeds in relation to certain aspects of the dispute with Lonrho) and "taken a briefing from him." He had also spoken to Mr Hamilton, who by that stage had become a Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party Trade and Industry Committee and who had "agreed to table a question" drafted for him by Mr Palmer and Mr Greer. Mr Greer emphasised the need for "good backbench pressure on Ministers on this issue" and indicated that he proposed to embark "on a carefully prepared programme of meetings with Ministers and senior backbenchers."

  116. Having met Mr Greer to discuss the campaign, Mr Hamilton in fact tabled two questions, both concerning the transfer of The Observer to Lonrho.

  117. On 7 November 1985, Mr Greer wrote to Mr Malone, who was at that time PPS to the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Mr Leon Brittan, inviting him to meet Mr Al Fayed. The following day, Mr Greer sent a letter to Mr Al Fayed informing him that Sir Michael Grylls,[41] who was Chairman of the backbench Committee, had joined the team and was to be briefed "in the course of the next few days".

  118. Over the following six weeks, Mr Greer met Sir Peter Hordern and Sir Michael Grylls twice each, as well as Mr Al Fayed's legal advisers.


  119. On 22 January 1986, following a letter from Mr Al Fayed to a number of Members "carefully selected" by IGA for their interest in the subject, Mr Hamilton wrote for the first time to Mr Al Fayed to express sympathy with him in the light of the allegations made against him by Mr Rowland.

  120. Anxious to reassure Mr Al Fayed that this circular letter had produced more than general expressions of concern or solidarity, Mr Greer declared that he had "been very active amongst Members of Parliament". And he added: "It is important for us to continue to work on these Members. We want to build up in Parliament a group of Fayed supporters so that as and when it is necessary for us to defend our position or take an initiative they are there in place."

  121. Also in January, Mr Greer met Mr Tim Smith, the other Vice-Chairman of the backbench Trade and Industry Committee, who agreed to speak to his fellow officers about the Al Fayeds' case. In a letter to Mr Smith, Mr Greer suggested that "the best plan would be for the four of you [Mr Smith, Mr Hamilton, Sir Michael Grylls and Sir Peter Hordern] to have a meeting with [Mr Al Fayed] and then request a session with Paul Channon" (the recently appointed Secretary of State). In the event Sir Peter Hordern was not invited to the lunch with Mr Al Fayed.

  122. After the lunch, Mr Greer wrote to Mr Al Fayed saying he thought it had gone "very well indeed" as there was now "an undertaking from Michael Grylls and his colleagues to raise the problem with Paul Channon and if they fail to make progress to look at the possibility of an Adjournment Debate or tabling a Motion in the House." Mr Greer added that he would "keep tabs on" the Members concerned.

  123. In a letter dated 16 April 1986, Mr Greer informed Mr Al Fayed that Mr Smith had agreed to apply for an Adjournment Debate which "provides us with a splendid opportunity to put on record the facts".

  124. During the weeks either side of that letter, Mr Greer held several meetings with Sir Michael Grylls, at one of which Mr Smith and Mr Webb were also present, to discuss, amongst other things, the content of the proposed Adjournment Debate. This eventually took place on 17 June 1986 and, afterwards, Mr Smith received a letter from Mr Greer congratulating him on his "splendid" speech.

  125. On 18 July 1986, Mr Greer wrote to Sir Michael about a letter sent to the Secretary of State by Sir Peter Hordern seeking an inquiry into allegations against Lonrho contained in an article published in The Sunday Times. Mr Greer told Sir Michael Grylls that Sir Peter "would greatly welcome the backing of you and the other officers of the Trade and Industry Committee, as would Mohamed".

  126. In early August, at Mr Greer's request, Mr Smith and Sir Michael made representations to the Secretary of State seeking a reference to the Office of Fair Trading of the proposal by Lonrho to increase its holding in the Today newspaper. Sir Michael's letter expressed concern on behalf of the backbench Trade and Industry Committee. Mr Hamilton, replying to a direct request from Mr Al Fayed to approach Mr Channon on the same matter, expressed his regret that, despite "the greatest sympathy" with Mr Al Fayed, he was unable to "do what you have asked on this occasion" Mr Hamilton's letter gave no reasons but stated that these had been conveyed separately to Ian Greer Associates. (In fact, Mr Eddie Shah, the owner of Today, was a constituent of Mr Hamilton's).

  127. The remaining months of 1986 saw meetings between Mr Greer and Sir Michael Grylls, Mr Greer and Sir Andrew Bowden and Mr Greer and Mr Al Fayed. During the same period, the campaign by Lonrho to secure an inquiry into the Al Fayed's acquisition of House of Fraser had intensified.


  128. On 20 January 1987, Mr Greer organised a lunch with Mr Al Fayed at Harrods to which were invited Sir Michael Grylls, Mr Smith and Sir Peter Hordern, together with the PPS's to Mr Channon and Mr Michael Howard, the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Corporate and Consumer Affairs.

  129. By early February, it was clear that active consideration was being given by the DTI to some form of inquiry into the Al Fayeds' take-over of House of Fraser. On the 5th of that month, Mr Greer reported to Mr Al Fayed on a meeting he had held with Mr Smith the previous day. Mr Smith was described as "extremely sympathetic to you and your position" and ready to "do everything he can to help". To that end, he had asked for Parliamentary questions to be drafted for his consideration. Mr Greer went on to say that he thought it unlikely, however, that Mr Smith would "accept the position of paid adviser to the House of Fraser before the General Election is over".

  130. In a fax to Mr Al Fayed dated 9 February 1987, Mr Greer announced the arrival on the scene of Sir Andrew Bowden with the words: "At last we have a campaigner!". And he concluded: "I have known Andrew for 20 years and we can depend on him. He is without doubt the right person: we can use Tim Smith in other ways".

  131. On 16 February 1987, Sir Andrew telephoned Mr Al Fayed to request that the introductory meeting scheduled for two days later should be attended only by himself, Mr Al Fayed and Mr Greer, and that there should be "no lawyers".

  132. During February and March, Mr Hamilton tabled two priority written questions to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about Lonrho and an Early Day Motion, drafted for him by Mr Greer and Mr Palmer, condemning attacks made by other Members on Harrods' industrial relations procedures.

  133. Other action taken by the group during March included:

    -    a delegation to the Secretary of State, led by Sir Peter Hordern, accompanied by Sir Michael Grylls and Mr Smith;

    -    a letter to the Secretary of State from Sir Andrew Bowden urging an investigation into various matters relating to Lonrho's business conduct. (In his opening paragraph, Sir Andrew claimed that the reason for his approach was a letter he had received from a constituent who had previously been employed "in a senior executive position by Lonrho". This was a reference to a Mr Michael Land, whom Sir Andrew had introduced to Mr Al Fayed's legal adviser as a potentially useful source of information about Mr Rowland and Lonrho);

    -    four questions by Sir Andrew to the Secretary of State and the Home Secretary.

  134. In a letter to Mr Smith suggesting a meeting to brief him "on the strategy ... we are now trying to employ", Mr Greer declared: "Andrew Bowden has now become involved with Mohamed - the more the merrier!" At the same time Sir Andrew wrote to the Home Secretary to raise the case of a former officer in the Fraud Squad who had left the police force to become head of security at Lonrho.

  135. A meeting was arranged by Mr Greer for 9 April "to talk about the current Lonrho/House of Fraser position". Those in attendance were Sir Michael Grylls, Mr Hamilton, Mr Smith, Sir Andrew Bowden, Mr Webb and Mr Greer. As it transpired, that day saw the announcement by the Secretary of State of his decision to appoint Inspectors to investigate the House of Fraser take-over.

  136. One of the repercussions of this development was the cancellation of the proposed visit by several Members to Paris, including a stay at the Ritz, invitations for which had been issued a week earlier.[42] The same day, Sir Andrew received answers to two of his questions about newspaper take-overs and mergers and followed up with a further question on the same subject.

  137. Also in April, Sir Peter Hordern drew to the attention of the Secretary of State an alleged conflict of interest, related to Lonrho, on the part of one of the two Inspectors[43] appointed to examine the acquisition of House of Fraser by the Al Fayeds; and Mr Smith tabled three questions to the Secretary of State about the circumstances surrounding the decision to appoint Inspectors.

  138. On 13 May, Sir Peter Hordern led a delegation consisting of Sir Michael Grylls, Mr Smith and Mr Hamilton, to the Secretary of State. They argued that further details should be given to the Al Fayeds about the reasons for establishing the inquiry and the information which had influenced the decision. They also pressed for an investigation into the outstanding allegations against Lonrho. In the official note on the meeting, the Secretary of State is recorded as saying that it "was very unusual to hold a meeting of this kind". Mr Channon also told the delegation that the Inspector in relation to whom a possible conflict of interest had been alleged had resigned. In a fax to Mr Al Fayed after the meeting Mr Greer said: "Delighted to hear the news about Heslop, well done."

  139. Some of the points raised during the meeting were pursued by Sir Peter Hordern in a letter to the Secretary of State which was copied to Mr Smith. Mr Smith also wrote to the Secretary of State on his own behalf.

  140. At the end of June, Mr Greer confirmed that a meeting with Mr Al Fayed had been arranged for 13 July at 60 Park Lane, to be attended by Sir Michael Grylls, Mr Smith, Sir Peter Hordern, Mr Hamilton and Sir Andrew Bowden. On 9 July, Mr Greer sent a note to Mr Hamilton, Sir Peter, Sir Michael and Mr Smith beginning: "Andrew Bowden has asked me to drop you a line". Mr Greer added that both he and Sir Andrew felt that a separate meeting before the Summer recess would be a useful opportunity for the Members to be briefed on the latest position regarding the House of Fraser and Lonrho.

  141. The meeting took place on 15 July at Harrods, when it was agreed that a delegation should go to see the new Secretary of State, Lord Young.

  142. On 23 July, Mr Hamilton sent Mr Al Fayed a copy of a letter he had written to the Chairman of the Stock Exchange about the annual report and accounts of Lonrho. In his letter to Mr Al Fayed Mr Hamilton explained that he had now been elected Secretary of the Conservative backbench Finance Committee and Vice-Chairman of the backbench Trade and Industry Committee, which, as he put it, "gives me a better position from which to act on your behalf", adding: "Previously, as a PPS, it was less easy". Mr Hamilton concluded by saying that he would shortly be writing to Mr Francis Maude, the new junior Minister at the DTI.

  143. At the meeting with the Secretary of State on 29 July, attended by Sir Peter Hordern, Mr Hamilton and Mr Smith, further strong representations were made on behalf of the Al Fayeds, particularly with regard to the need to expedite the Inspectors' inquiry, whilst the Department was again pressed to initiate a formal investigation of Lonrho's affairs.

  144. After the House had returned from the 1987 Summer recess, Mr Smith asked a series of six questions to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster,[44] about various matters relating to Lonrho.

  145. On 12 November, Mr Greer wrote to Mr Al Fayed to say that he was planning to speak to Mr Smith the following week and would arrange for "a meeting of our group" with Royston Webb immediately afterwards. And he added: "I believe now is the time for a delegation to go and see Lord Young. I will try and see that they do this the first week in December".

  146. In a letter to the Secretary of State dated 18 November, copied to Sir Michael Grylls, Mr Smith and Mr Hamilton, Sir Peter Hordern complained about what he understood to be the decision by the Inspectors "to prolong their investigations, at the behest of Lonrho, for a further two months". He concluded: "We should like to come and see you soon, to express our concern in person". Sir Peter's representations were reinforced by a separate letter to Lord Young from Mr Hamilton in which he strongly criticised the conduct of the inquiry by the Inspectors, at one point referring to the "creation of a 20th century Spanish Inquisition". Mr Smith then wrote in a similar vein.

  147. On 10 December, Mr Hamilton wrote to Mr Al Fayed apologising for his inability, owing to a clash with the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee, to attend the meeting with Lord Young that had been arranged for 14 December. He assured Mr Al Fayed, however, that he had written to Lord Young, who was "well aware of my views".

  148. At the meeting with the Secretary of State, Sir Peter Hordern, Sir Michael Grylls and Mr Smith took the opportunity to question Lonrho's alleged manipulation of the Inspectors' inquiry, as well as the Department's decision not to instigate a separate investigation into the affairs of Blorg and Contango, two Lonrho subsidiaries.

  149. The same day, Mr Smith sent a letter to Mr Maude, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Corporate and Consumer Affairs, enclosing a list of Lonrho companies whose accounting practices allegedly failed to comply with the relevant Companies Act provisions, and requesting an investigation and report on each.


  150. On the day the House returned following the Christmas recess, Mr Greer wrote to Mr Al Fayed to explain that his main concerns for the New Year were twofold: "to keep the group together", for which purpose an early meeting would serve best, and "to keep pressure on Tim [Smith] for an Adjournment Debate". This could be "a major step forward" because, according to Mr Greer, Mr Smith was "prepared to say many things about Rowland that have never been said before, with the protection of Parliamentary privilege". Mr Greer closed with an assurance to Mr Al Fayed: "I will keep close to him" [Mr Smith].

  151. On 28 January 1988, Mr Hamilton wrote two letters. The first was to Lord Young expressing disappointment at the DTI's decision not to set up an inquiry into allegations involving a number of Lonrho companies and urging the Secretary of State to "act swiftly" to examine relevant files, including a dossier of evidence alleging fraud supplied separately by Sir Peter Hordern. The second letter, to Mr Al Fayed, conveyed Mr Hamilton's concern that after nine months there was still no indication as to when the Inspectors would report and promising, once the inquiry was completed, to "raise in the House of Commons the propriety of such investigations". In a note the following day Mr Greer thanked Mr Hamilton for copies of the two letters, adding "I think they are excellent. Well done!".

  152. Mr Greer also wrote to Mr Smith, indicating that, at a meeting the previous day, Mr Webb[45] had advised against the holding of an Adjournment Debate "at the present time, if at all".

  153. On 5 February, Mr Smith sent Lord Young some papers which, he said, appeared "to relate to recent dealings by Lonrho in emeralds". He asked Lord Young to let him know how Fraud Squad inquiries into related matters were proceeding and this request was followed up with six written questions (some on separate but cognate matters).

  154. Also in February, Sir Peter Hordern wrote to Lord Young repeating many of the previously stated concerns about the conduct of the Inspectors' inquiry and making a strong personal attack on Lonrho's and Mr Rowland's integrity.

  155. A month later Mr Greer copied to Mr Hamilton, Sir Peter Hordern, Sir Michael Grylls and Mr Smith a draft letter to Sir Edward du Cann, the chairman of Lonrho, and to the company secretary, in connection with Lonrho's impending annual general meeting. At the same time Mr Greer suggested that "it would be useful if we could have a meeting on Tuesday 29 March to see what further representations it may be appropriate to make in the wake of the [Lonrho] AGM". Mr Greer also confirmed to Mr Al Fayed that copies of the draft letter had been "hand-delivered to our four Members in the House".

  156. During the latter part of May and early June, four further questions were tabled - two each by Mr Smith and Mr Hamilton. One of these questions, from Mr Smith, related to the progress of the police investigation into the Blorg and Contango affair, whilst the other three were concerned with the cost and duration of the Inspectors' inquiry into House of Fraser.

  157. On 12 July, Mr Greer faxed a message to Mr Al Fayed telling him: "Have seen Neil and others. Expect Motion to go down tonight. Am drafting series of questions to be put to Trade and Industry next week and a further very strong anti-Rowland motion before Parliament rises for the summer ... We have got them on the move!".

  158. On the same day, Mr Hamilton tabled an Early Day Motion condemning "the continuing barrage of libellous and vicious propaganda" being sent to Members by Mr Rowland and requesting the Secretary of State to "call upon his Inspectors" to complete their inquiry "without further delay". For his part, Mr Smith tabled four questions about Lonrho-related issues.

  159. The Inspectors' report was handed to the Secretary of State on 23 July 1988. Five days later, Sir Michael Grylls wrote to Lord Young to express serious misgivings on behalf of Mr Al Fayed about alleged deficiencies in the way the Inspectors had brought the inquiry to a conclusion.

  160. On 29 July Mr Greer faxed a message to Mr Al Fayed to say that he had spoken to Mr Hamilton, who would be sending a hand-delivered letter to the Secretary of State. Mr Greer went on: "We have agreed the text of the letter and it is strong. Neil Hamilton available for delegation to Lord Young next Wednesday/Thursday". This robustly worded letter, sent by Mr Hamilton the same day, called for a full investigation into the conduct of the Inspectors' inquiry.

  161. A further fax, dated 10 August, was sent by Mr Greer to Mr Al Fayed in which he stated: "I have spoken to Tim Smith, who has agreed to write a letter along the lines we wish". The message ended with an assurance to Mr Al Fayed that he and the relevant Members would meet again at the end of the month to assess the position.

  162. Also in August Sir Peter Hordern and Mr Smith wrote to Lord Young raising strong doubts about the fairness of the Inspectors' inquiry, and the alleged role played in it by Lonrho. Mr Greer congratulated Mr Smith on his "quite splendid" letter, adding that Royston Webb was "very thrilled with it".

  163. On 28 September, Mohamed and Ali Fayed, accompanied by Sir Peter Hordern and legal advisers to House of Fraser, met Lord Young, who undertook to give 72 hours' notice of his intention to publish the Inspectors' report, as soon as he was in a position to do so. Mr Smith followed up with three further questions about the Inspectors' report and its possible consequences.


  164. In January 1989, Sir Peter Hordern wrote to Lord Young urging him to take into account the potentially damaging effect on the national interest, notably in terms of trade with the Middle East, of reproducing in the Inspectors' report allegations made by Lonrho against the Al Fayeds; and he asked the Secretary of State to give consideration to a partial publication of the findings.

  165. During oral questions to the Attorney General on 23 January, Mr Smith asked a supplementary question on the subject of a recently published book by Mr Rowland about the Al Fayeds, entitled "A Hero from Zero". Mr Smith's question concluded with the ironic suggestion that the book be recommended for the Booker prize for fiction.

  166. Five days later Mr Smith received an open letter from Mr Rowland attacking his criticism of "A Hero from Zero" and implying that he (Mr Smith) was being paid for acting on behalf of Mr Al Fayed.

  167. In an intervention during oral questions to the Department of Trade and Industry on 15 February, Mr Hamilton described an Observer journalist as an "embittered left-wing propagandist employed by Mr Tiny Rowland".

  168. The following month Mr Hamilton sent letters to the Home Secretary[46] and the Secretary of State for Defence expressing concern about the security implications of alleged links between Mr Rowland and the Libyan regime. These letters had been prepared in draft by Mr Webb and sent to Mr Greer for typing onto Mr Hamilton's personalised House of Commons notepaper. The draft letter to the Home Secretary was headed: "Not to be released under any circumstances without the permission of Ian Greer".

  169. On 29 March, Mr Greer faxed a message from Cannes to Mr Al Fayed to tell him: "Agreed with Neil Hamilton four questions which have now been sent to Brian [Basham][47] for use in tomorrow's press. Believe it will be possible to put more questions down next week". Subsequently, four questions, raising various matters relating either to Lonrho or one of Mr Rowland's business associates, were tabled by Mr Hamilton on 4 April.

  170. Also in April Mr Hamilton wrote to the Minister of State at the DTI enclosing copies of his recent letters to the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence and seeking comments on the reply from the former.

  171. On 3 May Mr Hamilton tabled an Early Day Motion, drafted by Mr Greer and shown in advance to Mr Al Fayed and Mr Webb, drawing attention to the alleged links between a Lonrho subsidiary and the Libyan authorities.

  172. In a letter dated 3 October 1989 to Mr Al Fayed, Mr Webb confirmed that the arrangement whereby Mr Greer was paid a monthly retainer "as our Parliamentary consultant" would come to an end on 30 November.


  173. The Inspectors' report, unauthorised extracts from which had appeared in a special mid-week edition of the Observer in March 1989, was formally published on 7 March 1990.

The Composition of the Group

  174. The list of activities undertaken by the group is by no means an exhaustive one. Diary entries and other sources indicate that there were many other meetings, involving Mr Greer, Mr Al Fayed and the Members concerned, or combinations of them.

  175. Throughout the period when the campaign on behalf of the Al Fayeds was being organised by Mr Greer, the core lobbying group of Members consisted of Sir Michael Grylls, Mr Hamilton and Mr Smith (officers of the Conservative backbench Trade and Industry Committee),[48] supplemented at a later stage, and for a shorter period, by Sir Andrew Bowden. Sir Peter Hordern appears to have played a less central role. Although, as the consultant at House of Fraser, he led the various delegations to Ministers, he was not as closely involved as the other Members in the day to day running of the campaign and frequently was not party to the detailed arrangements made by Mr Greer. This perception of Sir Peter as somewhat detached from the Greer-inspired lobbying operation was confirmed in oral evidence not only by Sir Peter himself but also by others of the Members concerned, and by Mr Greer.

40  Palmer Cowden. Back

41  Then Mr Michael Grylls. Back

42  See para 546. Back

43  Mr Philip Heslop QC. Back

44  The Minister answering questions in the House of Commons on behalf of Lord Young, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Back

45  See para 113. Back

46  Some uncertainty has arisen as to whether this letter was in fact sent to the Home Secretary; however, it was copied, without amendment, by Mr Hamilton to the Secretary of State for Defence and other Ministers (see paras 400 to 402). Back

47  Public relations adviser to the Al Fayeds. Back

48  There was a period during late 1986 and early 1987 when, having been appointed a PPS, Mr Hamilton was not an officer of the Committee. Back

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